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When does your right to remain silent kick in?

If you watch much television, you can probably recite the Miranda advisement from memory. After all, the warning is common in police dramas, as it gives them some authenticity. The Miranda advisement has some real-world implications, though. Indeed, it may keep you from incriminating yourself.

According to the U.S. Courts, the Miranda advisement notifies individuals about their fundamental rights, including the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. As you probably know, though, you generally are free to speak voluntarily to members of law enforcement. So, when exactly does your right to remain silent kick in?

Do officers intend to question you?

Typically, officers only must advise individuals of their Miranda rights before they begin a custodial interrogation. If you are not in custody or police questioning is informal, officers likely do not need to give you the Miranda advisement. To know whether you are in custody, you should ask officers whether you are free to go.

Why does it matter?

Judges tend not to reward members of law enforcement for violating the fundamental rights of criminal suspects. Therefore, if officers do not give you the Miranda advisement when they should, you may benefit from the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine.

The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine excludes evidence officers gathered illegally. Consequently, if you admit guilt or tell officers about incriminating evidence, you may be able to use the doctrine to your advantage.

Whether officers give you the Miranda advisement, you probably do not want to press your luck. Ultimately, by staying silent, you avoid having to use legal technicalities to try to undo the damage your statements cause.