Don't forget that you have a right to remain silent
If you've seen a crime drama, you've probably heard that you have a "right to remain silent." This right is part of your Miranda rights. Movies and shows often depict police reading suspects their Miranda rights, but their depiction of the law is often inaccurate.
However, people must understand their Miranda rights before interacting with a Texas police officer. If you are being accused of a crime, knowing when to stay silent - and how - can protect your freedom.
To help clear up misinformation, the following is a Miranda rights FAQ compiled by our Conroe criminal defense attorneys.
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Don't forget: If you have been arrested or think you may be charged with a crime, contact The Webb Firm, P.C., for a free case consultation. At no cost to you, a member of our team can explain how the law applies to your situation and review legal defense options.
We can assess whether your rights were violated and help you pursue the justice you deserve.
The truth about Miranda rights
What are my Miranda rights?
Your Miranda rights stem from your constitutional right against self-incrimination. Under the 5th Amendment, you have the right to remain silent if providing information could be used as evidence against you to justify an arrest or add to charges.
Since the 1960s, police have been required to give people a "Miranda warning" if they intend to arrest them or use information gathered during in-custody questioning. The wording may change, but here's a basic script for a Miranda warning:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
- You have a right to an attorney.
- If you cannot afford a lawyer, you will be provided with one.
In Texas, officers must also add, "You have the right to terminate this interview at any time."
What if the police didn't read my Miranda rights during an arrest?
If police skip a Miranda warning during an arrest or before an in-custody interrogation, the information they get out of the alleged suspect will likely be inadmissible in court. Evidence and admissions of guilt made due to coercion cannot be submitted in court.
Not getting your Miranda warning does not necessarily mean that charges will be dismissed. Any evidence police collected legally before the arrest can still be used against you. An experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer will know how to investigate the arrest and find law enforcement errors that can be used to argue for the removal of evidence from consideration and reduced or dismissal of charges.
When does my right to be 'silent' start?
You always have the right not to answer police questions that could get you into legal trouble. Therefore, you do not have to wait to be Mirandized to be silent. However, before you are Mirandized, silence in response to police questions could be interpreted as "evidence" of alleged guilt - unless you "plead the 5th."
To protect your right to silence, you should assert your right, out loud, to the police. For example, you can say something like this to the police:
- "I am using my 5th Amendment right to be silent. I want to speak with my lawyer before answering any questions."
In Texas, do I have to identify myself to the police?
In Texas, there are generally three situations in which you are required to provide police with your identity:
- After being legally arrested, you must provide your name, date of birth, and address. Do not answer other questions without a lawyer present.
- During a legal traffic stop. Technically, you do not have to say your name if the police pull you over, but you must give them your driver's license and registration if an officer asks for it.
- If you are carrying a firearm and an officer asks to see your license to carry, you must give it to them.
Can I be charged with a crime if I don't identify myself?
Yes, there are situations in which you can be arrested and charged for refusing to identify yourself or for providing police with a false name, date of birth, or identifying documentation. The charge is "failure to identify." Typically, it's a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.
It is worth noting that you do not have to provide your name to an officer who has detained you for a Terry stop, "stop and frisk," or to question you as a witness.
Protecting your rights and freedom
If you have been charged with a crime in Montgomery County or the surrounding region, contact The Webb Firm, P.C., for a free case consultation. A member of our team can explain the charges against you and review defense options.
Our experienced Conroe criminal defense lawyers have built strong reputations for relentlessly fighting to protect those accused of crimes. Find out what we can do for you.
Don't delay. The earlier we begin gathering information and organizing your defense, the better. Contact us right away to schedule your free case consultation.