If you are like most people, you likely believe that you must always answer a law enforcement officer’s questions. Actually, such is not the case. While you must always produce identification when asked for it, you have no legal obligation to answer any further questions.
MirandaWarning.org explains that the US Supreme Court, in its 1966 Miranda v. Arizona decision, established your rights as follows:
- 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.
The only problem with these rights is that they apply only after officers arrest you. Prior to then, such as if officers designate you as a person of interest they want to question in regard to a crime under investigation, they do not to “read you your rights.” Furthermore, any information you give them prior to your arrest constitutes voluntary information. Consequently, officers and prosecutors can indeed use it against you in or out of court.
Despite the fact that your Miranda rights do not give you blanket protection, your constitutional rights from which they flow to do. These rights consist of the following:
- The Fourth Amendment guarantees your right to remain free of unreasonable searches and seizures by governmental officials,
- The Fifth Amendment guarantees your right against self-incrimination
- The Sixth Amendment guarantees your right to a lawyer any time you face criminal charges.
You always have these rights, at any time and any place. Therefore, you have every right to decline to answer an officer’s questions, i.e., remain silent, unless and until you have your lawyer by your side. Once you request a lawyer, the officer must stop questioning you until such a lawyer arrives.