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I've heard of Miranda rights, but what exactly are they?

Finding yourself the subject of an arrest can be a scary and confusing position for many Louisianans. Certain procedures must be followed by the arresting police officers, however, to protect your rights even if you are unsure of what precisely is going on at the time of the arrest.

One procedural safeguard in place to protect an individual's rights is the requirement that police officers read the Miranda warning to the subject after an arrest and before any questioning begins. An interrogating officer must inform you of the following four elements:

  1. You have the right to stay silent.
  2. If you do say something, it may be used against you in a court of law.
  3. You have the right to work with an attorney, who can be present during questioning.
  4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be assigned for you if you want.

This warning is required every time an officer has a person in custody and attempts to interrogate the individual. Keep in mind, however, that no Miranda warning is necessary when the individual is not in police custody or under arrest.

If an officer violates the Miranda requirement, consequences may be devastating to a prosecutor's case. When no Miranda warning was given, an arrestee's responses to the interrogation are not allowed to be used as evidence for most purposes in the criminal trial. A solid criminal defense team can help a defendant ascertain whether or not a Miranda violation occurred and if it impacts the pending trial.

Source: FindLaw, "Miranda Rights and the Fifth Amendment," accessed on Nov. 7, 2014

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