If you own a television set, you’re probably familiar with Miranda warnings and the “right to remain silent.” You can probably recite the opening lines of the classic Miranda warning:
You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
However, the fictional presentation of the reading of your rights and how that reading intersects with your right to remain silent can be a bit misleading. And, confusion about your rights, when they kick in, and how to assert them can lead to serious mistakes.
Your Right To Remain Silent: What you need to know
Here are a few important things you won’t learn in the movies but should know before you have to make a decision about talking to the police or answering questions.
- Your right to remain silent exists long before law enforcement officers are required to read you your rights. Miranda warnings are only required before police question you in custody and are generally not read in other contexts, such as a voluntary interview or questioning someone on the street. You do have the right to remain silent under non-custodial circumstances—police just don’t have to tell you about it.
- Contrary to popular belief, failure to read you your rights does not mean the charges against you must be dismissed. However, any information provided to police during unlawful questioning, such as questioning a suspect in custody without Miranda warnings, may be suppressed (prevented from being introduced as evidence). And, evidence the police find based on information they obtained during unlawful questioning may also be suppressed.
- Although you are generally not required to answer any questions posed to you by law enforcement officers, whether or not you are in custody, Ohio law does contain an exception. Under certain circumstances, you are required to provide police with your name, address, and date of birth. If you are reluctant to provide this information and unsure of whether or not the law applies, politely ask the officer whether you are legally obligated to provide this information. Failure to do so when required may result in criminal charges.
- Though police can’t continue questioning you once you’ve advised them that you’re exercising your right to remain silent or asked for an attorney, that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate with you. When you’re in custody, law enforcement and correctional officers may engage with you, including asking you questions that are “necessary to the custodial relationship.” Some examples include giving you instructions and asking whether you understand or asking whether you take any regular medications.
Talk to an Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney
Many people who are arrested or confronted by police believe that they can “clear things up” if they just cooperate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. Even an innocent person can create serious complications for himself or herself in a conversation with police.
Ideally, you’ll consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before speaking with the police, and receive more specific advice about how to proceed.
Guidance from a knowledgeable advocate and having a seasoned defense attorney in the room when you interact with police can be your best defense against critical errors, mischaracterization of your statements, or being confused into agreeing with inaccurate statements or characterizations.
Whether you have already been questioned or are anticipating police questioning, your best next step is to consult with an attorney. The criminal defense lawyers at Dworken & Bernstein are dedicated to protecting your rights and your freedom at every stage of the criminal investigation, arrest, and prosecution process.
Call us right now at 440-946-7656 or complete our contact form to learn more.
The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
Please contact us for a personal review of your situation