You undoubtedly have heard at least the beginning of the Miranda warning hundreds of times as you watch TV or go to movies in Pennsylvania. But you likely have not paid a great deal of attention to it because you figure it applies only to criminals and you do not plan to commit any crimes.
What you may not realize, however, and what FindLaw points out, is that the Miranda rights apply to you any time law enforcement officers attempt to question you. As such, they represent four of the most absolutely crucial rights you have.
Just to review, your four Miranda rights consist of the following:
- You 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.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
At first blush, it appears that you have these rights only when law enforcement officers arrest you. At the time the U.S. Supreme Court established these rights in the landmark 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona, the Justices decreed that officers must advise you of these rights whenever they arrest you, but not before.
But just because the law does not require officers to inform you of your Miranda rights whenever they seek to question you does not mean that you do not have them. You do. At all times. This means that you have no legal obligation to ever voluntarily speak with officers, even when they insist they do not suspect you of committing a crime, but view you only as a person of interest who may possess information relevant to a crime they are currently investigating.
For your own protection, you should never voluntarily divulge any information to an officer other than your name, address and any other identifying information (s)he asks you to provide. Should (s)he attempt to ask you additional questions or request that you “come down to the station and make a statement,” you should respectfully decline to answer or do so unless and until you have your attorney present.
This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.