You have probably heard a police officer read someone their rights before, whether it was on TV or in real life. They go like this:
"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you."
Those rights are referred to as the Miranda Warning, and they are extremely important. Essentially, what they mean is that you have the constitutional right to not speak to the arresting officer until you have an attorney present.
Many people don't realize how important it is to exercise this right during an arrest. They feel pressured into talking or they try to talk their way out of getting into trouble. Both are a mistake and can lead to criminal charges that could have otherwise been avoided.
How do I exercise my Miranda rights?
Your Miranda rights are not just given to you by the arresting police officer. In fact, he or she will likely try to get you to waive your rights by pestering you to answer questions. You may even feel like you have no option but to answer questions, but you do have the right to remain silent under the U.S. Constitution.
Why keeping quiet isn't enough
One might think that he or she can just keep quiet to exercise his or her right to remain silent, but that might not be enough. Supreme Court cases have held that in order to exercise your Miranda rights, you must explicitly say that you wish to do so.
This doesn't mean asking the officer if you can have a lawyer or if you can wait to talk until your lawyer has arrived. You must say, affirmatively, that you are exercising your right to remain silent.
Until you have spoken those words, the officer can continue to ask you things and try to get you to make incriminating statements, and any information you disclose can be used against you.
What if someone isn't read their rights during an arrest?
In some cases, the failure of a police officer to read the Miranda Warning could result in dismissal of the charges. However, it depends greatly on the type of charges and facts involved. Only an experienced criminal defense lawyer can tell you how your case could be affected.