“The cop didn’t read me my rights.”
That is the first thing many people tell me in their initial meeting, following an arrest. Sometimes, it is important…sometimes not. For most routine traffic stops, the police officer is not required to read your Miranda rights. If that were the case, a five-minute stop might run much longer.
The police officer must tell you that you have the right to remain silent and a right to have an attorney present (Miranda rights), only when you are under arrest. In other words, until the officer makes a decision to formally arrest someone, he is allowed to ask basic questions, such as whether you were drinking or where you were coming from.
Even with routine questioning, however, you are not required to give the police officer any information, other than basic identifying facts, like your name and address. It is usually best to be courteous, yet discreet with the officer. You do not have any obligation to share information the state can use against you in a later criminal matter.
Ironically, the officer must give the warning about your right to remain silent and to have an attorney only after he has decided to make an arrest. It is usually the information the officer gets within a few minutes of the stop that prompts him to make the arrest.
Miranda rights primarily relate to people in formal police custody – the point at which you are no longer free to just walk away. They also apply to the situation in which the officer has decided to make the arrest, even if he has not announced it. In other words, if you say something, or the officer discovers something that makes the arrest inevitable, he is required to tell you about the right to remain silent.
Miranda rights are important. If the officer does not provide them when required, any statements have to be excluded from trial, and many police departments require a suspect to sign a written confirmation of receiving them, once they are in custody. Unfortunately, they do not apply until a person is either under arrest or the officer has decided to make an arrest, even if he has not told the suspect.
What are your Miranda rights?
After placing the suspect under arrest, the officer will say something similar to, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”
Then, the officer will ask, “Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you still wish to speak to me?”