A guide to understanding your Miranda rights

On Behalf of Griswold LaSalle Cobb Dowd & Gin LLP

We’ve all heard them on movies on and television shows. “You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney.” These words are not just used for dramatic effect. These are known as Miranda rights. It’s true; you do have the right not to answer police questions and to ask for a lawyer. More often than not, you should assert these rights. Doing so may help you avoid getting into further trouble.

Invoking your rights

The police should inform of your Miranda rights when they place you under arrest. What happens next depends on your words and actions. If you choose to remain silent by only remaining silent, that’s usually not enough to let the police know that you’re exercising your right to remain silent. It might seem backward, but you need to take some affirmative step to let them know you don’t intend to answer their questions.

You can invoke your right to remain silent by explicitly saying, “I’m invoking my right to remain silent.” Anything less than an explicit statement may not be enough. If you say, “I’m not sure I want to answer your questions,” that may be ambiguous enough to allow the police to continue their interrogation.

You should be similarly straightforward when requesting legal counsel. “I’m invoking my right to a lawyer,” is clear. Simply stating, “lawyer” is less clear.

Police are not always required to repeat Miranda warnings, even if it’s been weeks since your last interview. It’s up to you to reassert your rights. You should always seek guidance from a skilled legal professional if you find yourself in the arms of the law.

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