In South Carolina criminal cases, suspects’ Miranda rights can often play a central role. If you assert your Miranda rights effectively, you can save yourself against having your own words against you. If the police violate your Miranda rights, anything you say in response to questioning may be inadmissible in court. On the other hand, if you waive your Miranda rights and speak with the police voluntarily, you may find it far more difficult to avoid a guilty verdict at trial.

What Are Your Miranda Rights?

Let’s start at the beginning: What are your Miranda rights?

Criminal suspects’ Miranda rights – and the “Miranda warning” – exist as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the police must inform suspects of their constitutional right to remain silent and right to counsel before conducting a custodial interrogation. Since the Supreme Court’s decision, police departments in South Carolina and around the country have adopted a standardized “Miranda warning” that includes the following statements:

  • 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 provided for you.
  • With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

When Must the Police Read Your Miranda Rights?

This is a source of confusion for many people. In our experience, many people incorrectly assume that the police must read their Miranda rights as soon as they get arrested. This is not the case.

The police are only required to inform you of your rights prior to conducting a “custodial interrogation.” Both of these words are important. In order for you to be in custody, the circumstances must be such that you reasonably believe you are not free to leave. In order for questioning to constitute an interrogation, the questions must be targeted toward investigating an alleged crime (as opposed to simply seeking to confirm your identity, for example). Unless and until you are interrogated in custody, the South Carolina police are not required to read your Miranda rights.

How Do You Exercise Your Miranda Rights?

In order to exercise your Miranda rights, you should politely inform the arresting or interrogating officer that you intend to do so. While often referred to as “remaining silent,” you do not have to truly say nothing at all in order to preserve the rights afforded to you under the Constitution. You can state that you do not wish to speak with the officer and that you would like to talk with an attorney; and, if the questioning continues, at this point, you may choose not to respond.

Will Exercising My Miranda Rights Make Me Look Guilty?

No. This is another common misconception. Exercising your Miranda rights does not make you look guilty. The police know your rights, and they know it is dangerous for you to answer their questions without an attorney present. Likewise, judges know the risks of a suspect waiving his or her Miranda rights and consenting to a custodial interrogation. Not only does exercising your Miranda rights not make you look guilty, but it could be essential to avoiding a guilty verdict at trial.

Can I Assert My Miranda Rights After Speaking with the Police?

Yes, you can assert your Miranda rights at any time. Many people only choose to assert their rights once they realize that a police officer’s questioning is heading down a potentially dangerous path (though this is not an approach that we advise). However, once you make a statement having waived your Miranda rights, you cannot take it back. The cat is already out of the bag, and, if you said something, the prosecutor’s office could use against you, it most likely would be used against you at trial.

What Does it Take to Waive Your Miranda Rights?

To waive your Miranda rights, you must do so, “knowingly and voluntarily.” If the police appropriately read the Miranda warning, this will take care of the “knowingly” element in most cases. If you answer police questions in custody of your own volition, this will most likely be considered a “voluntary” waiver, even if you felt scared or did not fully appreciate the gravity of your situation. Generally speaking, a Miranda warning will only be considered involuntary if it is procured through coercion, deception, or intimidation.

What if the Police Did Not Read My Miranda Rights?

If the police did not read your Miranda rights, the consequences depend primarily on the answers to two key questions: (i) Were the police required to read your rights? (ii) Did you make any self-incriminating statements in response to a custodial interrogation?

As we discussed above, the police are not required to read your rights immediately—they only need to do so prior to conducting a custodial interrogation. So, if the police didn’t read your rights because they weren’t required to do so, then anything you said can still be used against you.

However, if the police were required to read your rights, then the issue becomes whether you responded to questioning in a custodial interrogation. If you did, then your statements may be legally inadmissible. On the other hand, if you still chose to remain silent, then the failure to read the Miranda warning may not have any impact on your case.

In addition to your Miranda rights, you have many other important legal rights in South Carolina as well. To learn more, you can read Potential Defenses in South Carolina Criminal Court.

Contact North Charleston, SC Criminal Defense Lawyer Rad S. Deaton

If you are facing criminal charges in South Carolina and have questions about how your Miranda rights impact your case, we encourage you to schedule a free initial consultation. To schedule an appointment with North Charleston, SC criminal defense lawyer Rad S. Deaton as soon as possible, call 843-225-5723 or tell us how we can reach you online now.