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What, exactly, are Miranda rights?

Miranda rights have been the law of the land since a 1966 decision by the Supreme Court. The notification of Fifth Amendment rights to a person being taken into police custody is actually named after that case, which was Miranda v. Arizona. The Supreme Court decision in that case set a precedent which is still applicable today: a person has to be informed about his or her Fifth Amendment rights when being arrested.

If police or law enforcement do not provide a person with a statement of Miranda rights, it can damage the prosecution's case. Any statement that is made by an accused while in custody is seen under the law to be an involuntary statement if Miranda rights were not read to the person before those statements were made. This means that evidence, statements or questions related to such an arrest are not likely to be allowed in a trial or case.

So, what do the Miranda rights entail? Police don't necessarily have to repeat the word-for-word speech you hear so much on television, but they do have to inform someone of four basic rights. First, the accused who is being taken into custody has the right not to speak -- he or she can remain silent while being questioned.

Second, the accused must know that if he or she does speak, then what is said can be used by the prosecution in a court or trial. Third, an accused who is taken into custody has a right to obtain an attorney. Finally, if the person in question cannot afford his or her own attorney, then the court will appoint an attorney for the accused.

If you are facing criminal charges and don't remember being informed about your Miranda rights, this might help with your criminal defense. Working with your own attorney as soon as possible to form a defense is important, including a defense that involves the lack of Miranda rights.

Source: FindLaw, ""Miranda" Rights and the Fifth Amendment," accessed Feb. 19, 2016

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