Lots of us like watching television shows that involve our justice system, and we read books that are legal thrillers. Tanenbaum books fly off the shelves, real or virtual, as soon as they are released. We like this legal stuff.
So, we may think we’re pretty savvy about the law, and we probably do know more about our legal system than people living in most parts of the world. A lot of that is due to our 1st amendment rights.
And, when we were in grade school, we pledged allegiance, and we learned the preamble to the Constitution by heart. We learned about our fifth amendment rights, which the Miranda warnings are designed to protect.
It’s important to note that the Miranda warnings kick in only when the suspect is subject to “custodial interrogation.” When that occurs, the arresting officer is required to give the warning, as follows, before any questioning takes place: “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 the suspect doesn’t understand English, a translator must be found.)
The absence of “custodial interrogation” permits the cop to ask all the questions he or she wants. And your answers, if they haven’t been dragged out of you, are admissible in court.
Here’s how you may choose to use your Miranda rights: If you are guilty and want to unburden yourself, simply tell the truth. Or, if you’re innocent and want the police to know what happened, simply tell the truth. If you choose to exercise your right to remain silent, then tell the law enforcement officer that you want to cooperate, but you wish to talk to a lawyer before answering any questions.
It’s part of our justice system that gives meaning and life to our precious 5th amendment due process rights. They were hard fought and hard won. And, they distinguish us as a caring and righteous people.