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What it Really Means When a Cop Tells You You’ve Got The Right to an Attorney (Pt 3)

Your constitutional rights include the right to an attorney when arrested. But what does that really mean?


Welcome back and thanks for joining us for the wrap of this discussion about what your Miranda rights really mean. Have you ever stopped to think that there might be more to your rights than just knowing you’re allowed to stay silent and that you can have an attorney if you want one? Maybe not. But think about this – if you don’t really know what the Miranda rights mean when a cop reads them to you, do actually understand what your rights are?


The case we’ve been discussing in this series – of Laricca Seminta Mathews who was accused of shooting her boyfriend to death, shows exactly how easy it is for someone to misunderstand their Miranda rights. Mathews says she didn’t know having the right to an attorney meant she could stop the interview at any time, and request that a lawyer be present throughout. So what does having the right to an attorney really mean?


What does “You have the right to an attorney” mean?


According to the prosecution in this case, an officer is required to read a suspect their Miranda rights, but that doesn’t mean they have to explain everything that those rights imply. For example, did you know that having the right to an attorney also means:


  • Being able to have your attorney present during every aspect of police questioning, if you want them,
  • Being able to stop a police interview at any time and ask for your attorney to be present,
  • Being able to wait to answer police questions until your attorney has arrived,
  • Being allowed to choose not to answer an officer’s questions, if your attorney advises you not to, or if you simply don’t want to. Yes, you should always “lawyer up” until your lawyer tells you otherwise.


The Michigan Court of Appeals says Miranda rights should be made clear!


However, the simple statement “you have the right to an attorney” doesn’t really make all of that clear. According to the prosecution in Mathews case, though, it’s not the job of an officer to make the full implications of a suspect’s Miranda rights clear to them. Nor is it a cop’s job to explain that a suspect has the right to an attorney being present before and during a police interview. The Michigan Court of Appeals, however, says something completely different.


According to the Michigan appellate court, “The four warnings Miranda requires are invariable (which means ‘never changing’), but the United States Supreme Court has not dictated the words in which the essential information must be conveyed. In other words, a verbatim recital… is not required… and a fully effective equivalent will suffice.” So in a nutshell, cops don’t have to use specific words when reading someone their rights. It’s more important that they make sure to use words that make it easy for a person to understand their rights.”


You have the right to an attorney. So you should use it!


Having the right to something doesn’t mean you have to use it. For example, you might have the right to own a gun, but that doesn’t mean you have to own one. The same goes with having an attorney – the law says that you can have one, but you don’t have to. However, if we’re going to be entirely honest here, not exercising that right (and everything it includes) would be nothing short of extreme stupidity! Let’s make this real simple. Shut up and lawyer up right from the start.


Being accused of a crime in Michigan is a very big deal. This is your future and your freedom on the line here. So if you or a loved one have been accused of a crime here in Michigan, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can handle this on your own. Call The Kronzek Firm PLC right now at 866 766 5245 (866 7No Jail) and make sure you have some of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state on your side. We’ve been doing this for decades, and we’re really good at it! Over the decades, we’ve represented other lawyers, police officers, CPS workers, professors, doctors and lots of others. We can help you too.


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