You may often hear people say how important it is to know your rights. However, many people really don’t know exactly what their rights really are. Let’s take a look at some of the most important that you need to know in regard to a criminal investigation.
What Are Your Miranda Rights?
If you have ever watched a crime drama on television, you have seen officers arrest a person and immediately tell them they “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 and if you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you.”
These rights are afforded to you by both the United States Constitution and the Texas State Constitution. If you are arrested and not told of your right to remain silent, anything you say may not then be used against you. Even if you confess to having committed a horrendous crime, if you were not told about your right to remain silent, the confession may be inadmissible at a trial.
Just because you are arrested does not mean a police officer or detective has to read you Miranda Warnings. Often, people believe that if Miranda warnings aren’t given that will somehow affect the case. This isn’t necessarily true. Miranda warnings are only triggered if an individual is in custody and the police want to interrogate that person. Miranda warnings affect the statement one gives not the actual arrest. An officer will often not read Miranda warnings to a person arrested for a simple crime, unless they want to also interrogate that individual. Also if an individual voluntarily meets with the police and is not “in custody” police will not and are not required to inform an individual of their rights under Miranda.
If you are ever investigated or arrested for a criminal offense, then here are the rights that are most relevant to you. The most important ones are the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution, (which are restated in the Bill of Rights). Also you need to be aware of Texas Constitution, Article 1, Sections 9 and 10. These rights apply whether you are a citizen, resident, or someone visiting the US from another country.
The Fourth Amendment protects you against warrantless searches and seizures. The warrant can only be issued if law enforcement has probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.
When police show up with a warrant, you have the right to read the warrant. It must specifically state what the officers are looking for, and they must limit their search to where the item reasonably could be found. For example, if the officers are looking for a human being, they cannot open your jewelry box and plow thought it since that is not a place a human could be found.
If you give consent to the search, there is no issue. Once you consent, anything found can be used against you and you have no grounds for objecting or complaining about an illegal search in court.
Your attorney can discuss with you any exceptions to the warrant requirement that may apply to your case.
The Fifth Amendment provides you many protections:
- The right to remain silent when questioned by law enforcement.
- The right to due process of law, which essentially means the proceedings must be fair.
- The right not to be tried twice for the same crime (double jeopardy). However, the state is considered a different sovereign than the federal government, so some crimes can be tried in both the state court and federal court.
When the news reports that someone has “lawyered up,” this means the person has exercised his or her rights under the Sixth Amendment. Sixth Amendment rights include:
- The right to an attorney.
- The right to a speedy and public trial.
- The right to confront witnesses against you.
- The right to compel witnesses to appear and testify on your behalf at trial.
There may be times it is to your advantage not to have a speedy trial. Your attorney will discuss this with you and the two of you will decide together whether this is a right you want to enforce.
The attorneys at Townsend, Gebhardt, & Eppes, PLLC, have the knowledge and skills you need from your criminal defense attorney. Plus, they all have experience as prosecutors, so they know how the other side works. They fight to be sure all your constitutional rights are protected. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.