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Miranda Rights

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.

The Miranda warning - known to pretty much anyone who has ever watched a police drama on television - is an explanation of the Constitutional rights of a criminal defendant. This warning, made famous by the 1963 case of defendant Ernesto Miranda, must be given to anyone being interrogated while in police custody. There have been various interpretations of the warnings over the years, but none more controversial than the recent Supreme Court decision of Berghuis v. Thompkins.

In the Berghuis case, the Court decided that the Miranda rights come with a caveat. The Court's analysis of defendant Chester Thompkins' case ended with the decision that although Mr. Thompkins literally exercised his right to remain silent - not speaking for the first three hours of intense police interrogation - incriminating statements that he made later into the questioning session can indeed be used against him. The Court specifically stated that one wishing to remain silent pursuant to his or her Miranda rights has, oxymoronically, to state that he or she wishes to remain silent. In essence, the right to remain silent must be invoked orally with an unambiguous statement that the person being questioned "is exercising the right to remain silent."

Some - particularly defense attorneys - say that the Supreme Court has been steadily chipping away at criminal defendants' rights for years now and that the Berghuis case is just the latest in a long line of cases designed to lessen the protections that defendants are offered under the Constitution. Others say that the revised warnings are a necessary tool in the government's arsenal to protect the country from domestic terrorism, specifically modifying the protections offered to U.S.-born terror suspects.

This case is sure to be both strenuously defended and opposed in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime, though, if you have been charged with a crime, seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area who can both advise you of your rights and begin mounting a defense on your behalf.

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