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Understand when your 'Miranda' rights actually apply

Your "Miranda" warnings are actually just pointed reminders of your Fifth Amendment Constitutional rights, including your right to refuse to answer when the police ask you questions. You are also reminded that if you do choose to talk to investigators, they will record everything you say and use it against you in court if possible. You are also reminded that you have the right to an attorney to help mount your defense in court -- even if you can't afford a private one.

That's it.

Nowhere in your Miranda rights does it tell you that an officer's failure to read you those rights immediately upon arrest will let you avoid prosecution, which is a myth that many folks believe. Nor will an attorney be waiting on you when you get to the courthouse or come rushing in to defend you against police interrogation techniques -- unless you hire that attorney yourself or someone has done it for you.

If you're ever arrested, keep the following actual facts in mind:

-- The police only have to advise you of your Miranda rights if they intend to interrogate you. If they aren't asking you questions and you happen to be naturally chatty, they can still use whatever you say against you in court as long as they didn't provoke you into making those statements.

-- You clearly need to communicate to investigators the fact that you do not wish to speak to them without an attorney present in order to invoke your Miranda protections. Staying silent except for essential communications (like asking for a drink of water) works, but the police can give you your Miranda warning and then ask questions for hours until you assert your rights by saying that you want to speak to an attorney.

-- You won't get that attorney immediately. You will likely be returned to a holding cell and eventually taken to see a judge, where you can then plead indigency, or the inability to afford legal assistance. Only then will you be assigned an attorney. You will not be able to choose your defense counsel -- which is another huge disadvantage.

If you're in trouble with the law, the smart thing to do is ask to call a private attorney as quickly as possible. For more information on criminal defense topics and how we can protect your rights, our website is at your fingertips.

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