What You Need to Know About Miranda Warnings & the Fifth Amendment

Posted on: 29 December 2016


You have likely seen many crime dramas where a suspect is read their "Miranda rights". The often-heard reading begins "You have the right to remain silent", and it is this right that is targeted with this warning. Simply put, the reading of this warning to a person being arrested puts them on notice that they are not required to speak to an interrogator and that they may request legal counsel.

Normally, the message to those arrested is crystal clear, but a foggier situation can exist for people who are "taken in for questioning" and not read their rights. To learn more about the Miranda warning and its protections, read on.

Taken in for Questioning

Often, the police use the guise of questioning a suspect when they lack enough evidence to actually arrest them. Anyone who is being questioned by the police should take the experience seriously, since the police will very seldom speak with witnesses or other involved parties at police headquarters without good reason.

The Miranda warning, however, is not required to be read to those who are simply being questioned, but only applies to those who have been arrested. On the other hand, if you are interrogated in a locked room and are not free to walk out, you are being held in custody and you should be read your Miranda rights.

The Right to Not Incriminate

The idea behind the Miranda warning is to allow people to refuse to self-incriminate by speaking without the benefit of legal council. Anything said under questioning may be used in court against you, so you must take action to protect yourself, even if the police have failed to read you your rights.

It is the Fifth Amendment, not the Miranda warning, that gives everyone the right to remain silent and you must speak up to invoke that right. "I invoke my Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate myself" or any variation of that phrase may be used. As long as you mention the Fifth Amendment and self-incrimination you are covered.

Keeping Silent

You may be wondering what would happen if you did not evoke your Fifth Amendment right and simply kept silent under questioning. The answer to that question is surprising, and perhaps even shocking. A 2013 Supreme Court ruling stunned the legal world by declaring that keeping silent won't protect you from self-incrimination; you must speak up and evoke those rights. In other words, people who are "Mirandized" may have more rights than those under interrogation without arrest.

If you are involved in a criminal matter, speak to a felony defense attorney today.