Ask a Criminal Defense Attorney: Does the Officer Have to Read Me My Rights?

This is one of the most frequently misunderstood aspects of being arrested.  Most people assume that if a police officer makes an arrest there is an attendant obligation of receiving a formal notification of “your rights”.  This is untrue.  A person is entitled to be advised of “their rights” only before custodial questioning.   In a landmark decision in 1966, the United States Supreme Court, under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, determined that prior to custodial questioning, a person must be affirmatively advised that the has the right an attorney, free of charge if he cannot afford one and that he does not have to answer questions.  And, any questions that he does answer will be used against him later in court.

A continuing issue of controversy is at what point are police officers required to advise an individual of his rights.  The dividing line is where the police are merely conducting an investigation to determine what happened and when they have made a decision that a crime has occurred and they are questioning the individual they believe committed the crime.  There are other factors involved but the main distinction is that the questions now seek inculpatory statements.