If you are like most Michigan people, you think you must answer any questions a law enforcement officer asks you. This is not true. You have no obligation to answer an officer’s questions. The only thing you must do is produce identification if and when (s)he asks you to. Other than that, you can respectfully decline to answer questions unless and until you have an attorney present.
You likely have heard officers read suspects their Miranda rights in numerous movies and TV shows, so you know the Miranda warning contains the following four parts:
- 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.
Did you know the law only requires officers to tell you these rights when they arrest you? It is true. Prior to your arrest, officers need not tell you your Miranda rights – even though you have them at all times.
Miranda and the Constitution
The U.S. Supreme Court delineated the Miranda rights in the landmark 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona. This case also established Miranda’s applicability to arrest situations. Nevertheless, all four of your Miranda rights flow from the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution’s first 10 Amendments, and you have these constitutional rights at all times, whether or not you are under arrest.
Specifically, the following Amendments guarantee your Miranda rights:
- The Fourth Amendment guarantees your right to remain free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
- The Fifth Amendment guarantees your right against self-incrimination.
- The Sixth Amendment guarantees your right to counsel, i.e., have an attorney, to defend you against criminal charges.
Asserting your rights
If a law enforcement officer attempts to question you before or after arresting you, you have the right to refuse to answer his or her questions until you have an attorney present. If (s)he asks you to go down to the station and give a statement, you likewise have the right to not go unless and until your attorney accompanies you. It goes without saying that you should never “mouth off” to an officer, but neither should you voluntarily give up your crucial Miranda rights.