Who is Miranda, and how do I know when I need her?


Author: Attorney Adam Sorrentino


The Miranda Rights may be the most famous instructions in American criminal law. Popular shows, like Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU, have been influencing pop culture since the 90’s. As the decades moved forward, the phrase “You are under arrest, you have the right to remain silent …” became known in households across the country. Unfortunately, because of this popularity, many people expect to be “read their rights” whenever they have contact with police officers. The conditions needed to require the administration of a person’s Miranda Rights are more specific than that.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona (1966) is the foundation for the Miranda Rights. In Miranda, the Supreme Court held that a person who is subject to a custodial interrogation must be read those rights. The specific language may vary, but the rights are typically the following:


  1. You have the right to remain silent.


  1. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.


  1. You have the right to an attorney.


  1. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you.


  1. If you choose to answer questions without an attorney, you are still allowed to stop answering and request an attorney at any time.


Because of the popularity of police dramas, many people do not realize that there are actually five separate rights that need to be read. Most commonly, people assume they only need to hear the “right to remain silent” and the “right to an attorney.”

Additionally, a requirement that is usually left out of these scenes may be at-fault for the confusion of when Miranda Rights need to be administered. As stated, the Supreme Court ruled that the Miranda Rights needed to be administered when a person is subject to a “custodial interrogation.” In Miranda, that meant that the person is (1) being interrogated, and (2) in police custody or otherwise deprived of their freedom to leave/act. Those two situations together are what require the Miranda Rights to be administered. Since Miranda was decided, those requirements have been elaborated upon, expanded, and limited through various case law.

The Miranda Rights, the requirements to administer them, and “custodial interrogation” have a long legal history in the United States. If you are concerned that your Miranda Rights were not given, or improperly administered, contact an attorney to discuss the applicable standards and case law.