What is a Miranda warning?
A Miranda warning advises people of their constitutional right to not answer questions and to have an attorney present before answering any questions.
Must a police officer always advise a person of his Miranda rights before asking a question?
No - The Miranda warning is only in effect during a "custodial interrogation." This means that the person being questioned is in custody or in an environment in which the person does not believe that he is free to leave.
If I am being questioned, how do I assert my right to remain silent?
Take a deep breath and make up your mind to not engage in any discussions of any kind until your attorney arrives. Asserting your right to remain silent can sometimes be hard work - you might feel pressure to "explain" even when you don't want to talk. If you have to say something, you will probably be ok if you say nothing more than "I don't want to speak without my attorney present. If I am under arrest, I'd like to be left alone while I wait for him. If I'm not under arrest, please release me so I can go now. Am I under arrest?".
If I am not under arrest, do I have to answer a police officers questions?
No - Unless you are placed under arrest you are free to leave at any time. However, if a police officer stops you while you are walking, and asks you for identification, it is probably in your best interest to provide such information. Various court decisions have established that police officers are allowed to detain people for extended periods of time in an effort to determine their identity.
Should I waive my Miranda rights?
No - If you have been arrested, and you have been given your Miranda warning, then anything that you say can and probably will be used against you in court. Generally speaking, unless your attorney advises you to, you should never agree to waive your Miranda rights. Please take note that if you speak in any way instead of keeping silent, this can be deemed to be a voluntary waiver.
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