The right against self-incrimination is grounded in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution; “No person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” The sentence only has fifteen words, but those words have had a profound impact on the American legal system.
In the most basic interpretation, the right against self-incrimination means that the Government may never force a defendant to testify in their own criminal case. The decision to testify in a criminal case is solely the defendant’s choice, and while an attorney may advise the defendant whether they should testify or not, the decision is ultimately the defendant’s. Further, under the Supreme Court’s ruling in Griffin v. California, the Government may not use the fact that a defendant chose not to testify against them during their closing argument.
The right against self-incrimination was expanded in the infamous case Miranda v. Arizona, wherein the Supreme Court decided that statements made by a defendant under custodial interrogation are only admissible in a trial if the Government can prove that the defendant was informed of their right to an attorney under the Sixth Amendment and their right against self-incrimination under the Fifth before making the statements. It’s a common misconception that a police officer has to give a suspect theMiranda warning when they arrest someone, or else the case will be dismissed, as depicted here. However, a failure to “Mirandize” a defendant merely means that the Government won’t be able to use statements the defendant made in trial. This is not to dispel the importance of a defendant not being read their Miranda rights before being questioned. There are a great number of cases that have been dismissed, or the charges reduced, based on a defendant’s statements being deemed inadmissible by a judge.
If you are being charged with a crime, it is vital that you consult an attorney to make sure that the Government did not infringe on your civil liberties when they arrested you. The attorneys at Peter Loyd Weber and Associates demand evidence hearings to prevent the Government from using illegal evidence against their clients. Call us at (720)863-7755 for a FREE consultation to see if the Government infringed on your rights.