Understanding the Miranda warning

Since 1966, the well-known Miranda warning has been a staple of television crime shows and movies. However, the statements that comprise this warning are utilized every day in real-life situations across Texas and are critical components of our criminal justice system. Whether stopped by police for a suspected DUI or any one of many violent crimes, the rights inherent in the Miranda warning are intended to provide essential protection for those facing possible criminal charges.

Basic rights provided by the Miranda decision

It is important to understand what the Miranda warning is intended to do and what it is not intended to do. It is not a means by which a suspect can avoid an arrest under Texas criminal law. Rather, it is a warning that police must provide to suspects before custodial interrogation begins. The main purpose is to make sure that those charged with a crime know their rights and are provided the opportunity to assert them.

Some important facts about the Miranda warning include:

  • A suspect can be arrested even if the Miranda warning is not read as long as he or she is not questioned by police in the process.
  • If police wish to question a suspect after an arrest, the Miranda warning must be read at that time.
  • If a suspect indicates that he or she does not wish to answer police questions at that time, all questioning must be ceased immediately.
  • A suspect must still give biographical data, such as name and address, to law enforcement officers even if invoking the Miranda decision.

Additionally, a suspect is allowed to change his or her mind about police questioning at any time. For example, if a man originally consents to a police interrogation but wishes to stop after answering some questions, he may do so.

Texas case leads to Supreme Court decision

In the summer of 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision on a criminal case from Texas that has direct impact on the interpretation and use of the Miranda warning.

In essence, the court’s ruling indicates that a suspect cannot simply remain quiet but must specifically state that he or she wishes to leverage the power of the Fifth Amendment. If a person does not explicitly tell officers that he or she does not wish to answer questions, anything said or noticed can be used by police and prosecutors.

This means that body language, facial expressions and more can all be used against a person unless a direct request to cease questioning is recorded.

Critical actions that make a difference

People who face the potential of criminal charges should first and foremost never hesitate to clearly tell police officers of their wish to remain silent. After that, the most important action is to find a private criminal defense attorney for help. A lawyer is the one person that can be guaranteed to be safe with whom to talk.

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