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TV Arrests vs. Real-Life Busts: Debunking the Fictional Glamour of Crime Shows-Miranda Rights Edition


Film maker holding a camera while in a smokey alley

On Television when people are arrested on TV, the police always read them their Miranda rights. It is shown so often on TV that we all know them: “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you, etc.”

In real life, the police only have to read you your rights if you are in custody, and they plan to interrogate you. It is common for people to be arrested and never be read Miranda rights.

However, anything you voluntarily say can still be used against you. Once someone is arrested, they sometimes feel the need to explain themselves, and officers are more than happy to listen. The fact that body cameras and in car-cameras are common works to protect your rights but also works to memorialize anything you say to a law enforcement officer.

If you are not in custody, or if you are in custody and the officer is not asking you questions, any statements you make are voluntary and may be used against you. It is not unusual for me to get a call and have a potential client say, “They never read me my rights.” Miranda warnings are not required in all situations.

Another difference between TV and real life is that on TV, police often violate people’s rights by using excessive force or planting evidence. In real life, police are supposed to be professional and honest. Police departments have policies their officers are required to follow regarding the use of force and the handling of evidence.

If you are facing arrest, do not try to explain anything to the police, simply ask for an attorney and stop talking. I have seen many people talk themselves into a conviction. I have never seen anyone talk their way out of an arrest!

Barton Morris
Barton Morris has been providing high-quality legal representation in the area of state and federal criminal defense for more than 20 years.
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