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ASK A COP: Tell me about my rights
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ASK A COP: Tell me about my rights

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Q. If you are arrested, do cops have to read you your rights immediately? My son was arrested and I don’t think the cop read him his rights.

Great question. Knowing your rights and understanding when they apply is very important. The rights you are referring to in this scenario are known as Miranda warnings or Miranda rights which were set forth by a landmark Supreme Court case in 1966 (Miranda v. Arizona). Many people are familiar with at least the term Miranda rights, but some may have an incorrect understanding of when those rights actually apply.

Just because someone is arrested, doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to be read a rights advisory. Miranda warnings are based on two important things: custody and questioning. The custody portion meaning is the person free to go? The questioning portion, is the person being asked questions about the crime?

Not every person who is arrested is asked questions. One scenario that sticks out in my mind would be an outstanding warrant arrest. Let’s say the person missed a court appearance for sentencing and a warrant was issued as a result. Once law enforcement contacts that person, yes, they will be placed under arrest which would meet the “in custody” portion. However, it’s not likely the officer would have any questions pertaining to the original crime. In this situation, the person would’ve been questioned well before they reached the sentencing phase of court proceedings.

If you are in fact in a situation where Miranda warnings are warranted, the officer is required to advise you of the following: You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have the lawyer present during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you, at no cost, before any questioning. If you choose to speak without a lawyer, present you may stop answering questions at any time.

Once the warnings have been given, you will then be asked if you understand your rights and if you are willing to speak with the officer without an attorney present. If you choose to proceed, the questioning phase would begin at that time.

Another misconception would be if you ask for a lawyer, you will get one at that very moment. This may be portrayed on television shows, but it’s not reality. If you have a lawyer on retainer, it’s possible they would respond depending on time of day. If you are needing a lawyer to be appointed for you, that does require some formalities within the court system so it’s not an immediate occurrence.

The decision in Miranda vs. Arizona is incredibly crucial to law enforcement and the general public alike. It’s important for law enforcement to follow the guidelines so the statements they do obtain are admissible in court. It’s also important for the general public to understand their rights and application of those rights.

Sgt. Krisa Brass is with the Scottsbluff Police Department. She will answer questions submitted by readers each week. To submit a question for consideration, email youasked@starherald.com or leave your question in a message, 308-632-9057.

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