You’ve likely heard the phrase “Read him his rights,” in a Hollywood cops-and-robbers type movie. In real life, this process is known as “Mirandizing” a criminal suspect. It’s also sometimes referred to as a “Miranda Warning.” Someone may have told you that a Pennsylvania police officer cannot arrest you without issuing a Miranda Warning. If so, you have received misinformation, because police can, in fact, arrest someone without “Mirandizing” him or her first.
The protection of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows you to invoke silence during a police interrogation. This means that you do not have to answer questions under investigation if you do not have legal representation at the time. Understanding your rights ahead of time can help you defend them in court if you wind up facing criminal charges in this state or any other.
What you say during interrogation can and will be used against you in court
If a police officer arrests you and plans to interrogate you, he or she must issue a Miranda Warning. This warning informs you that you may invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent without the benefit of legal representation. The officer will also tell you that you have a right to hire an attorney and that the court will appoint one if you are unable to do so.
As with many aspects of criminal justice, such as search and seizure laws, DUI or the process of taking a person into police custody, there are exceptions to the rules regarding issuance of a Miranda Warning. For instance, if you’re a juvenile, your right to remain silent extends to silence without benefit of the presence of your parent or legal guardian. Also, if a police officer determines that public safety is at risk, he or she can question you without issuing a Miranda Warning.
The Miranda Warning is about your Fifth Amendment rights rather than your arrest
The Fifth Amendment protects you from self-incrimination, meaning saying something that prosecutors can use against you in court. Many people mistakenly believe that a Miranda Warning has to do with a police officer making an arrest, when, in fact, what it pertains to is “interrogation” rather than “arrest.”
You may waive your right to remain silence and speak freely with a police officer who is questioning you, although those well-versed in criminal justice issues would undoubtedly consider doing so ill-advised. The more you learn about your Fifth Amendment rights ahead of time, the better able to defend your rights you might be if you become a suspect in a Pennsylvania criminal investigation.