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How do I invoke my Fifth Amendment rights?

Imagine the police pull you over and frighten you so badly that you confess to a crime you didn't commit. Or, maybe you answered police questions in the wrong way and now the prosecution is using what you said against you in court. These kinds of situations happen a lot, but they can largely be avoided by invoking your Miranda rights.

Your Miranda rights are the rights that you often hear police reciting to individuals as they arrest them in the movies.

Police must read you your Miranda rights

It's likely that you've heard them before in the movies when police make an arrest, they will "read you your rights." Your Miranda rights as police must read them are as follows:

  • 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 appointed for you.

The concept of "Miranda rights" stems from a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1966 regarding the case Miranda v. Arizona. According to the Supreme Court justices, when police take someone into custody they must read the above rights to the individual prior to questioning him or her. The Miranda rights stem from the Fifth Amendment right of every individual to not be forced to make self-incriminating statements.

That said, there are some situations where the Miranda rule is not invoked. In a DWI case for example, a person is arrested only after providing a breath or blood sample. At that point the police have all the evidence they need to charge the driver with DWI, and they have no further need of any information the driver may provide. Out of habit however, most officers will read Miranda rights anyway.

When police forget to read you your rights

Failure to read a suspect his or her Miranda rights prior to questioning means that nothing the individual says can be used against him or her in a court of law. Even if a suspect confesses to the crime, if police did not read the suspect his or her rights before questioning, a criminal court will rule the confession to be involuntary.

The best way to respond to police

The best response to police questioning is to tell them you would like to speak with your lawyer. Say that you're invoking your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, or just say that you're invoking your right to remain silent. If police continue to press, simply remind them that you would like to speak with your attorney.

 

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