You likely think you know all about your Miranda rights based on the many times you have heard fictional law enforcement officers recite them to fictional criminal suspects on TV shows and in the movies. But do you really understand the nature of these rights and when they apply to you?

FindLaw lists your four basic Miranda rights as follows:

  1. You have the right to remain silent.
  2. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
  3. You have the right to an attorney.
  4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

The law enforcement loophole

Unfortunately, when the U.S. Supreme Court codified the Miranda rights in the 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona, it left a glaring loophole. Law enforcement officers need only advise you of these rights at the point they arrest you. Before then, they need not tell you of them.

Constitutional underpinnings

The most important thing you need to know about your Miranda rights is that you always have them, not just when and after officers arrest you. The Founding Fathers included these rights in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights as follows:

  • Your right to remain free of unreasonable governmental searches and seizures as guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment
  • Your right to refuse to incriminate yourself as guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment
  • Your right to avail yourself of the assistance of counsel any time you face police questioning as guaranteed in the Sixth Amendment

Your Miranda rights represent your first line of defense against the government running amuck and convicting you of crimes you did not commit. Never volunteer any information to law enforcement officers. The only thing you must tell them is your name and whatever other identifying information they ask you for. If they attempt to question you further, respectfully tell them that you cannot and will not answer their questions until you have your attorney present.