How Do Miranda Rights Work?

Right To Remain Silent

Encounters with law enforcement do not always trigger a Miranda situation.

When a police officer approaches you during a traffic stop and asks for your credentials, he does not need to read you your Miranda warning.

Movies and television confuse people because they get it wrong all of the time.

To keep it simple, think of it this way. If you are not free to leave, then Miranda comes into play.

Another way to remember it is like this. If the cuffs ever go on, it’s time to stop talking and ask for lawyer.  

If you really care about Miranda, we went out of our way and included an awesome instructional video for you.

The Right to Counsel

Under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, every person who is arrested and/or charged with a crime has a fundamental right to have legal representation. 

Through each and every step of the process, a criminal defendant is entitled to legal counsel.  Once a person is in police custody and does not feel free to leave or is told that have been placed under arrest, they must be aware of their right to counsel.  Again, this is a fundamental right and cannot be violated.

Again, this is a fundamental right and even if a defendant cannot afford a lawyer because he or she is indigent, the State (government) is Constitutionally obligated to appoint an attorney for him or her at no cost.

The landmark United States Supreme Court decision regarding this issue is: Gideon v Wainwright372 U.S. 335 (1963)
To learn more about this case, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gideon_v._Wainwright

Presumption Of Innocence

You have a right “to NOT testify” in your own trial –

You are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  The government has the job of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you are guilty.  The judge or jury cannot draw an adverse inference regarding your guilt or innocence because you did not testify.  A judge knows this rule, but a jury is given the instruction to not consider your right to remain silent during your trial as admission or indication of guilt.

In other words, a juror is not allowed to conclude, “Well, he must be guilty because he didn’t testify on his own behalf.  He must be hiding something and that’s why I will find him guilty.” 

Again, America is dramatically different from other countries in this regard.  In many foreign justice systems, a defendant is compelled (forced) to testify in his or her own defense.  A defendant’s unwillingness to testify on their own behalf is considered an admission of guilt. 

In the United States, the defendant’s decision to testify on his or her own behalf is completely up to the defendant.

Right To A Trial By Jury

In New Jersey, Petty Disorderly and Disorderly offenses are decided by a municipal court judge.  In New Jersey, although DUI cases are quasi-criminal in nature given the potential for a defendant to end up in jail, New Jersey does not offer jury trials in DUI cases.  In New Jersey, with a few exceptions, DUI trials are always decided by a judge.

New Jersey criminal offenses such as Child EndangermentAggravated AssaultDrug PossessionSexual Assault, Terroristic ThreatsRobbery, and many others may be decided by a judge OR jury.
For an interesting discussion on DUI trials in New Jersey, please visit: Does New Jersey Have Jury Trials in DUI Cases?

The Right to a Trial by Jury – Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution and the Sixth Amendment explicitly states that anyone accused of a crime has a right to a trial by jury.

A criminal defendant also has the right to a public and speedy trial. However, the offense must be serious to warrant a trial by jury.

According to the NJ Supreme Court, a trial by jury will only be held in cases where the offense carries a potential sentence of more than six months’ imprisonment.

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