In the legal system of the United States, a Miranda warning is a warning given by police to people in custody who are about to be questioned to make sure that the subject of the questioning understands his or her legal rights. One important thing to note is that people do not have to be formally arrested to be “Mirandized,” as people say when they refer to giving a Miranda warning. In most situations where someone is in custody and will be questioned, meaning that she or he is deprived of liberty by the police, the rights discussed in the warning apply. An exception to this rule is a request for identification, which may be made without issuing a Miranda warning.
A famous Supreme Court case, Miranda v Arizona, established the need for the Miranda warning. This 1966 case revolved around someone who was accused of a crime and was not aware of his legal rights, most particularly his rights under the Fifth Amendment. During questioning he made a confession and this was used against him in court. The Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement have an obligation to make sure that people know and understand their legal rights before being questioned, and that evidence obtained without such a warning may not be valid in court. If a person requests an attorney and is questioned anyway, any information obtained will be considered invalid for use in court.
There are several components to a Miranda warning. One is a restatement of the right protected by the Fifth Amendment: The right to remain silent. People are not required to answer questions which would be personally incriminating. Another right is the right to an attorney and the right to have an attorney present during questioning. People must also be made aware of the fact that if they cannot afford an attorney, one can be appointed.
Another critical part of the Miranda warning is a reminder that statements made during questioning can be used in court. People must also understand that while they can waive the right to have an attorney present during questioning, they may invoke this right and stop the interview at any time. If law enforcement officers are working with people who are not United States citizens, they must also make these individuals aware that they have a right to contact their consulates for assistance.
It has been determined that simply providing the Miranda warning is not enough. It must also be established that the subject understood the warning. Once warned, people are asked to communicate that they understand or to request clarification. If the subject does not understand, the Miranda warning must be presented in a way which is understandable. This may require the services of an interpreter or the use of simple language for people who have difficulty understanding the more formal Miranda warning.
A similar concept is the Garrity or Kalkines warning, a warning given to federal employees who cooperate in internal investigations.