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Why are your Miranda rights so important?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2020 | Criminal defense |

Any time Virginia law enforcement officers attempt to question you about a criminal matter, your Miranda rights become your first line of defense against inadvertently incriminating yourself. Even when you know you have done nothing wrong, you should never voluntarily give officers any information other than your name, address and other identifying information without having your attorney present.

FindLaw outlines 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.

When applicable

The problem with your Miranda rights per se is that officers need to advise you of them only at the point where they arrest you. This represents the “loophole” the U.S. Supreme Court gave officers in the Miranda v Arizona case, the 1966 case that established these rights. Therefore, officers do not run afoul of the law when they fail to “read you your rights” when they seek to question you prior to your arrest.

Despite this loophole, however, your Miranda rights actually protect you at all times and in all situations. Why? Because they flow from the following rights you have under the Constitution:

  • Your Fourth Amendment right to remain free of unreasonable searches and seizures by governmental officials, including the unreasonable seizure of yourself as a suspect
  • Your Fifth Amendment right to refrain from incriminating yourself
  • Your Sixth Amendment right to assistance of legal counsel whenever facing the possibility of criminal charges

Your best interests, therefore, dictate that you respectfully tell officers that you want an attorney before talking with them. They must stop questioning you at that point and cannot resume until your attorney arrives.