If you are targeted by law enforcement, then they probably want to get as much information out of you as possible without your lawyer present regardless of whether it is incriminating. Law enforcement might ask you to consent to them searching you and your property. Also, law enforcement might pressure you into signing documents that seemingly waive your right to remain silent or the right to have your lawyer present when questioned by authorities. For if you do not comply, you are made to feel like you will face the worst punishment imaginable. In reality, if you submit to law enforcement’s intimidating tactics, then you could place yourself in an awfully bad spot. So, what do you do when law enforcement targets you? Answer: know your Miranda rights and take advantage of them. Invoke your right to remain silent and right to counsel. Here’s more.
What Are My Miranda Rights?
If you are in custody and about to be interrogated, law enforcement must give you a Miranda warning which goes something like this:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything that you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have a lawyer present before and during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, then one will be appointed for you to represent you before and during questioning.”
One of the worst times for you to make a mistake is when you volunteer information to law enforcement in connection with your arrest.
Miranda Rights Rooted In Fifth And Sixth Amendment Rights
Keep in mind that a Miranda warning applies when you are in law enforcement custody and about to be interrogated. If you are arrested or detained, or any other situation where you are not free to leave, then you are in law enforcement custody. An interrogation is where law enforcement questions you to obtain information that they could and probably will use against you. Consider that law enforcement will likely record every last word that you say before they turn that information over to the prosecutor – a government lawyer that could charge you with one or more offenses and then attempt to convince a jury or judge that you are guilty.
If law enforcement places you in custody and is about to interrogate you, then they are obligated under law to give you a Miranda warning. If law enforcement fails to give you this warning, and you start to answer their questions in that interrogation, then they have possibly violated your rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Notably, the Fifth Amendment protects you against compelled self-incrimination. This includes being coerced or forced into saying something that might hurt your case. The Sixth Amendment gives you the right to consult with your lawyer prior to answering questions from law enforcement while under interrogation. It also provides you the right to have your lawyer present during your interrogation.
It is important to remember that if law enforcement arrests you and pressures you into speaking up without first providing you a Miranda warning, and you utter something that is incriminating before that warning is provided to you, then the prosecutor generally cannot make use of your statement as evidence at trial to show your guilt. If they do, then the government potentially commits a violation of your Firth Amendment rights.
Also, if law enforcement doesn’t provide you a Miranda warning prior to interrogating you, and they force you to answer their questions outside of the presence of your lawyer, then the prosecutor is not permitted to later use your statement as evidence against you at trial. Rather, the evidence is supposed to be suppressed. If it is not, then the government potentially violates your Sixth Amendment rights.
Moreover, law enforcement does not have to provide you a Miranda warning when you are in a noncustodial setting and are free to leave, even when they have probable cause to arrest you. Because of this, if law enforcement is suspicious of you and starts asking you questions before arresting or detaining you, then you might not want to volunteer information, especially without your lawyer present as your statement might lead to your arrest. Law enforcement does not have to provide you a Miranda warning immediately after they arrest you either, so long as they are not questioning you. So, you should not volunteer information without your lawyer present.
You Have A Constitutional Right To Be Quiet
No matter the circumstances, you can protect yourself by avoiding conversations with law enforcement when you are arrested other than to say that you are invoking your right to remain silent and your right to have your lawyer present for questioning. Law enforcement might try to get you to talk, warning you that failing to comply could result in the worst punishment. Consider the fact that law enforcement is not on your side if you are arrested or detained regardless of how friendly they appear to you.
A common misconception is that you look guilty by remaining silent and requesting a lawyer. It's important to remember that invoking your right to remain silent and right to counsel cannot be used against you in court. In other words, the prosecutor cannot use this evidence against you at trial.
It is a good idea to refrain from speaking with anyone other than your lawyer concerning your situation. This includes those who might be in a holding cell with you while the police are waiting to interrogate you or while charges are pending against you. If you have to keep certain people informed about your situation, consult with your lawyer beforehand.
What Happens If I Assert My Miranda Rights?
The moment that you assert your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, then law enforcement must stop interrogating you. Generally, they can resume their interrogation if you waive those rights. Similarly, if you assert your Sixth Amendment right to counsel, then law enforcement has to stop interrogating you until your lawyer is there by your side. Note that you might waive your rights verbally or by voluntarily signing a statement that basically confirms that you understand your rights and still want to speak with law enforcement outside of the presence of your attorney. Waiving these rights to legal counsel can be a disaster waiting to happen.
Miranda Rights Aren’t Applicable All The Time
Miranda rights apply in criminal prosecutions where the state aims to use testimonial evidence that has been obtained while you are in custody and when that evidence results from a law enforcement investigation. Also, these rights do not apply to your interactions with private citizens but instead apply to law enforcement interactions. This means that if you are in a holding cell and an informant or jailhouse snitch gets you to speak, then your response might be lawfully used against you. For example, law enforcement could place an informant in your cell to elicit a confession from you.
Another important point about Miranda rights is that they only apply to testimonial evidence. This means that your right to remain silent concerns your statements or documents instead of samples of your handwriting, voice, or DNA (e.g., hair or saliva).
Further, Miranda rights are not applicable when you volunteer information if you are not actually in custody and subject to interrogation. This means that law enforcement might confront you at your home for information. Your volunteered or unsolicited statements might be used against you if you are later arrested and charged with an offense.
Also, if you are in custody and have asserted your Miranda rights, then uttering something incriminating after asserting those rights could be construed as volunteering information, negating the whole point of asserting your rights to get your attorney involved before you do anything that could worsen your position. Relatedly, if you confess something to law enforcement before asserting your Miranda rights but after you are Mirandized, then that statement might be used against you at trial unless the evidence is suppressed on other grounds.
Lastly, a confession that law enforcement seemingly obtains from you in violation of your Miranda rights might still be admissible and used against you at trial in rare circumstances. Specifically, your statement might be admissible if it is obtained during a clear and present danger to public safety where law enforcement reasonably believes that your statement is necessary to resolve that emergency. Also, in Florida, the prosecutor might be able to use your statement against you if you testify at trial and say something that contradicts your confession.
Retaining A Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are not provided a Miranda warning, or law enforcement happens to obtain a statement from you in violation of your Miranda rights, then it is possible for you to contest the state’s use of that evidence by arguing that your constitutional rights have been violated. In order to do this, your lawyer must first file a written motion to suppress containing a factual and legal basis for suppressing the evidence. Following a hearing, the court decides whether to allow the evidence in your case. If the judge inappropriately permits the use of the evidence and you are negatively affected (e.g., convicted), then you can appeal the adverse decision.
Law Offices of Greg Rosenfeld has extensive experience protecting the rights of Florida clients who are accused of criminal offenses. If you are facing criminal charges, then call (561) 902-1122 or contact us online for a free consultation regarding your case.