What to know about exercising your Miranda rights after an arrest

If you have been placed in handcuffs or are no longer free to leave, you are under arrest. If you have been arrested, you want to do whatever is most likely to get you free.

The temptation will be high to go along with what the police want. Most of the time people see the police as “the good guys.” They want to solve the crime and so do you. You want them to know you’re innocent. You want to cooperate and clear things up right away. You want to go home.

The reality is you are under arrest – under suspicion. It’s probable that cooperating with the police is no longer the path that will get you home soonest.

Instead, you should exercise your Miranda rights, which are:

  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to have an attorney present
  • The right to have an attorney appointed if you cannot afford one

Since you’re under arrest, it is quite possible that the police already believe you are guilty. If they do, anything you say will be filtered through that lens. Their belief – and the confirmation and contextual biases that belief engenders – could make them see your innocent statements as evidence of your guilt.

Often enough, once police officers decide a suspect is probably guilty, it changes the entire investigation. Instead of locating an unknown perpetrator, the officers begin seeking evidence to prove the suspect’s guilt. Your best bet is to get an attorney involved as soon as possible to push back against this mindset.

Exercise your Miranda rights even though it’s hard

At any point in a criminal case, you have the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present. You should exercise these rights by saying, “I plan to remain silent until I have spoken with my attorney” or “I want to speak with an attorney and have nothing else to say at this time.”

This may be very hard to do. There could be a great deal of pressure to change your mind. Resist that pressure.

If you have already been speaking to the police, you should stop immediately. Even if you have already been talking, you still have the right to remain silent and have an attorney present.

The police may occasionally try to start a conversation with you. Each time this happens, say “I am waiting for my attorney” or “I am remaining silent until I speak with my attorney.” The police may try to change your mind and get you to talk immediately. Don’t do it.

At some point after booking you, the police will give you the opportunity to make a phone call. If you already have an attorney in mind, call them.

If you do not have an attorney in mind, call a trustworthy friend or relative who can research and contact a good defense attorney on your behalf. Be aware that the police will be listening to this call and anything you say could be used against you later. Law enforcement can listen to all jail phone calls except those between attorneys and clients.

Once you have arranged for an attorney, your job is to wait quietly until your lawyer arrives. Do not talk about your case to anyone – not the police, not jail personnel, and not to other inmates or people arrested with you. Assume that all of your discussions are being monitored.

Once your lawyer arrives and you are in a private location, you should tell your lawyer the truth about your case. Everything that you tell your attorney (except very limited things such as plans to harm someone) is confidential.

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