How to Survive Your Criminal Case in Florida
(part 5 of a 9 part series)
By: Carlton “Duke” Fagan, Esq.
101 Century 21 Drive
Jacksonville, Florida 32216
(904) 733-1234 – Telephone
“BUT THEY DIDN’T READ ME MY RIGHTS!”
When someone says this, they are usually referring to what is known as their “Miranda Rights”. These rights came from the United States Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona. Because of television, most people have a pretty good idea of what their Miranda Rights are. Here is the way the Supreme Court stated them in Miranda:
At the outset, if a person in custody is to be subjected to interrogation, he must first be informed in clear and unequivocal terms that he has the right to remain silent.
The warning of the right to remain silent must be accompanied by the explanation that anything said can and will be used against the individual in court.
Accordingly, we hold that an individual held for interrogation must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation under the system for protecting the privilege we delineate today.
While authorities are not required to relieve the accused of his poverty, they have the obligation not to take advantage of indigence in the administration of justice… In order to fully apprise a person interrogated of the extent of his rights under this system then, it is necessary to warn him not only that he has the right to consult with an attorney, but also that if he is indigent a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.
The reading of these rights by the police does not have to be word-for-word as they are written above. Any recitation of them that is substantially similar and clearly informs the person in custody of these rights will do.
Again, due to television, most people mistakenly believe that the police must read them their rights if they are arrested. This is not true. There is no requirement for the police to read a person their rights when they are taken into custody. However, if the police fail to read the Miranda Rights to someone who is in custody AND fail to obtain a waiver of those rights, then any statement by the arrestee is NOT admissible against the arrestee in court. REMEMBER, Miranda only applies when someone is in the custody of law enforcement. Any statement made by someone who is not in custody is admissible against them in court.
The moral of the story is – DO NOT talk to the police without your lawyer present. If you are questioned by the police, you should politely tell them that you want to talk to your lawyer. No matter what they offer to do for you or threaten to do to you, politely (even if they are not polite to you) tell them only your name, address, date of birth and that you want to talk to a lawyer. Say nothing else. This is your constitutional right. Never feel awkward about asserting it. Would you feel awkward about asserting your right to vote, to go to church wherever you choose, to speak freely, to vote, to own property, to own a gun? Your right to remain silent is just as important and precious a constitutional right as any of these. Do not hesitate to insist upon it. Our forefathers demanded it and the patriots who came before us purchased our rights with their lives. Never give them up.