You are probably familiar with phrases such as “the right to remain silent,” “pleading the Fifth” and “reading you your rights.” When you are under arrest, it is important to understand exactly what these concepts mean.
These phrases refer to your Fifth Amendment rights and the Miranda warning, which advises you of those rights.
The right to remain silent
The Fifth Amendment prevents police from forcing you to incriminate yourself. If you are under arrest, you have these rights:
- You do not have to answer any questions.
- Anything you say is admissible as evidence in court.
- You can request that a lawyer be present before answering questions.
- If you decide to answer questions without a lawyer, you can stop and request one at any time.
A common name for these rights is Miranda rights. The police must inform you of these rights as part of the Miranda warning.
The Miranda warning
When you are under arrest, the police must explain your rights and ensure that you understand them. If you have ever seen someone getting arrested on TV, you have probably heard the speech that begins, “You have the right to remain silent.” Police do not have to follow this script to the letter; they only need to convey what your rights are and confirm your understanding.
If you have witnessed a crime and the police want to question you, they do not have to read you your Miranda rights. However, as a witness, you still have the right to remain silent.
When interacting with police, it is important to be careful how much information you reveal. The law gives you the right to avoid making statements that could incriminate you.