If you think you have a legal obligation to answer law enforcement officers’ questions any time and anywhere they ask them, think again. Your only legal obligation is to produce identification when officers ask for it. Once you do that, you need not answer any further questions because of your constitutional and Miranda rights.
As explained by MirandaWarning.org, your Miranda rights consist of the following:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to an attorney.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
They get their name from Miranda v. Arizona, the landmark 1966 US Supreme Court case that first delineated them.
Unfortunately, the Justices gave law enforcement officers a loophole: they need only inform you of your Miranda rights once they arrest you. Absent your arrest, any information you give to officers counts as voluntary, and you can rest assured that officers will use it against you if at all possible.
Fortunately, however, you always have your constitutional rights from which your Miranda rights flow. These rights consist of the following:
- Your Fourth Amendment right to remain free of unreasonable searches and seizures by governmental officials
- Your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination
- Your Sixth Amendment right to assistance of counsel, i.e., a lawyer, any time you possibly face criminal charges
Asserting your rights
It goes without saying that you should never “mouth off” to law enforcement officers or argue with them. Rather, you should simply request a lawyer before answering any questions. Once you do so, officers must forego all further questioning until your lawyer is at your side to advise you.