Another case, New York v. Quarles, states that, “When officers are presented with a public safety emergency, such as finding a missing weapon, they can conduct a custodial interrogation without first giving the suspect their Miranda Warnings.” Simply stated, if the purpose of the interrogation isn’t to elicit a confession, but for a public safety purpose, the safeguards of Miranda are not required. Finally, Berghuis v. Thompkins, which said that, “The mere act of remaining silent isn’t enough to invoke a suspect’s right to remain silent during an interrogation.” If you simply remain silent, the police could continue to question you indefinitely. The suspect must unambiguously state that they’re invoking their right to remain silent and any voluntary reply, even after a lengthy period of silence, can be construed as a waiver.
Are My Miranda Rights Dead?
A question we hear all the time is: The police didn’t read me my rights when they arrested me, doesn’t that mean I get my case dismissed?
The answer is no. Unlike what we see on TV, simply being arrested does not mean that an officer must read you Miranda warnings. Miranda warnings don’t directly affect the legality of an arrest, but deal primarily with admissibility of statements and evidence discovered as a result of those statements. These warnings come from the now famous case of Miranda v. Arizona. In that case, the Supreme Court held that if law enforcement wants to interrogate someone in custody, their statements may only be used in court if the suspect is first informed of their rights, and they knowingly and voluntarily waive those rights.
As with many areas of our lives, when it comes to statements, our constitutional protections have been eroded. For example: With the right to remain silent. We now know simply remaining silent is not enough to trigger the protection of the 5th Amendment. In 2010, the Supreme Court gave us one of the most frustrating decisions when it comes to this area of law, Berghuis v. Thompkins. In that case, the suspect, Mr. Thompkins, was given a Miranda warning before being questioned, but did not explicitly invoke or waive his right to remain silent during the three hour mostly silent interrogation.
The court held that the mere act of remaining silent was insufficient to imply that Mr. Thompkins invoked his right to remain silent, and any answer that he gave, even after a lengthy silence, could be implied as a waiver of his 5th Amendment right. What does this mean for you? You must positively assert your 5th Amendment right to have these protections. So how do you invoke your 5th Amendment rights?
You must say, “I assert my right to remain silent. I assert my right to counsel, and I wish to terminate this interview.” If you don’t, there’s no limit on how long the government can question you. This area of law is fraught with peril and gets a lot of good folks in trouble, even if they’re innocent. Your Miranda rights aren’t dead, but they’re on life support. To protect yourself, invoke your right to remain silent, and then exercise that right.
Save Yourself From Self-Incrimination
What do these cases mean for you? To protect yourself from self-incrimination, you must very intently invoke your rights to remain silent and to have counsel present, and then exercise those rights. Tell the police officer, “I assert my right to remain silent. I assert my right to counsel, and I wish to terminate this interview.”
Do not waive your rights. Do not say anything to law enforcement until your attorney arrives and only if your attorney tells you to do so. This area of the law is complex, and if not followed directly, can place innocent people behind bars. Therefore, if you ever find yourself in trouble with the law, you need to speak to an attorney immediately.
If you have any questions about Miranda Rights, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with an Independent Program Attorney.