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Does a person actually have a right to remain silent?

When it comes to the criminal justice system, many Louisiana residents may get most of their knowledge from what they see on television and in the movies. In reality, court cases differ significantly from what is depicted in the movies, which many may only realize when they personally have been charged with a crime.

Then again, there are some widely known aspects that are made known because of how they are used in the movies. For instance, many individuals are familiar with Miranda rights because they often see police officers stating, "you have the right to remain silent." As with many areas of law, there are some things true and false about these depictions.

One thing that is true is that officers will attempt to question individuals who are facing serious charges, in order to see if the person will make any incriminating statements. For example, a Louisiana man was recently arrested for sex crimes, including human trafficking, pandering and violating conditions of his sex offender registration. The detectives in the case questioned the man, and in response, he allegedly confessed that he had picked up a 16-year-old girl and attempted to "pimp" her out.

Many may believe cases like the above are automatically a violation of a person's Miranda rights. In reality, however, the right to remain silent is only triggered under certain circumstances. Thus, contrary to popular belief, officers do not typically need to advise a person of his or her rights before placing them under arrest.

The warnings are required, however, if the person is in custody and interrogated. Individuals facing allegations of wrongdoing need not answer interrogating questions while they are under custody. Unfortunately, many individuals may not realize or enforce their rights until after the fact.

Misstatements or misunderstandings can result, particularly given the early stage of proceedings, when all the facts are not yet known. Accordingly, individuals should understand their rights and when they apply, as well as what they can do when law enforcement violates those rights.

Source: Southwest Daily News, "CPSO Vice arrests Lake Charles man for human trafficking," June 21, 2015

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