Myths and Misconceptions About Miranda Rights

Most people are familiar with the famous “Miranda warning,” usually from hearing it so often recited in TV and movies. A police officer will handcuff a suspect and recite the following: 

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. 

Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? 

With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

While you undoubtedly recognize that language, countless myths and misconceptions surround Miranda rights and cloud how they truly work. Read on for clarity surrounding the most common myths and misconceptions about Miranda rights. 

Myth #1: For an arrest to be valid, the police must read you your Miranda rights. 

If your rights are not read to you, your case will be dismissed, right? Wrong! Police are not required to Mirandize a suspect. If they choose not to read you your rights, any statements you make to the police officer after your arrest cannot be used against you in court. However, your arrest will still be valid and your case will likely still be prosecuted using other evidence against you. 

Myth #2: If you are not read your Miranda rights, evidence gathered by the police cannot be used against you. 

While it is true that your statements to the police cannot be used against you if you are not Mirandized, this is not true when it comes to other evidence. If the police fail to read you your Miranda rights, any evidence collected by the police during or after your arrest can still be used against you. This might include illegal substances found on your person or statements made to other people at the scene of the arrest. 

Myth #3: If you remain silent, it will hurt your case in court. 

Your right to remain silent is granted by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Judges and juries are not allowed to use your silence to determine your guilt. Many defendants choose to remain silent and not speak to the police or during their criminal trial, neither of which can be used against them. 

If you are placed under arrest or are being interrogated by the police, it is always best practice to invoke your right to remain silent and wait to speak, if at all, once you have discussed your case with your North Carolina criminal defense attorney.