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Exercising your Miranda rights

On Behalf of | Nov 4, 2019 | Criminal Defense

Speaking to law enforcement after an arrest can often be unnerving. A person in Michigan who faces interrogation may feel confused or upset by the process to the point that he or she may speak without realizing the consequences of making statements. 

According to the Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute, the Fifth Amendment and other federal laws protect people from self-incrimination during questioning or through voluntarily speaking of the circumstances. In particular, the case of Miranda v. Arizona lays out the rights to remain silent, avoid self-incrimination, hire an attorney or have one appointed and exercise these rights at any time during the process. 

It is this last statement that many people may not understand. Simply receiving the notice of the rights is not enough. Individuals must exercise the rights themselves. One murder case brought before the Michigan Court of Appeals demonstrates this element of the Miranda rights. 

The defendant asserted that although the officer did provide him with his Miranda rights, he did not understand that he could have an attorney present before questioning began and during the interrogation. 

The recorded conversation between the officer and the defendant revealed that he did ask a clarifying question about hiring an attorney before signing that he understood the document. He did not refuse to speak until an attorney was present, though. Instead, the interrogation immediately went forward. 

The appellate court ruled that law enforcement was under no obligation to produce an attorney for the defendant, but only to inform him of his right. It was his own responsibility to state that he wanted an attorney and would wait to speak until one was present.