“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.”
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Law and Order, then you’re likely familiar with these phrases. But, what exactly do they mean? And how do they impact you as a criminal defendant in the State of North Carolina?
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to avoid making self-incriminating statements. In the landmark Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, the Court ruled that a person taken into police custody must be informed of this Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination before being questioned by police.
A police officer must clearly communicate the following four elements to a person being taken into custody before subjecting him to questioning:
- You have the right to remain silent:
A suspect is under no requirement to answer police questions.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
While a suspect has the right to remain silent, if he chooses to speak to a police officer, whatever he says can be used against him in his criminal case.
- You have the right to an attorney.
If a suspect chooses to answer police questions during an interrogation, he must be informed of his right to have an attorney present during questioning. Once a person requests an attorney, the police must refrain from asking questions until an attorney arrives.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.
You have a right to legal representation, and it is the government’s duty to provide an attorney for you if you cannot afford one on your own.
After being read the Miranda warning, you must clearly state your desire to remain silent or request an attorney. Until you do, the police may continue questioning you. Once you invoke your right, the police must cease all questioning until your lawyer arrives OR you waive your right to remain silent. Be careful: You may waive your right if you choose to speak up!
If a police officer questions you while you are in custody but fails to give you your Miranda warnings, any statements you make cannot be used against you in court. With limited exceptions, any such statements or evidence will be thrown out.
Contact a North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney
Whether you have been arrested for a traffic offense, drug crime, or anything in between, it is important to engage a criminal defense attorney who understands the nuances of Miranda. Contact Attorney Cotten if you are concerned that a law enforcement officer violated your rights. With a track record of success in protecting North Carolina defendants’ Fifth Amendment rights, he is equipped to help you. Give him a call today.