Miranda rights, or the right to remain silent, are familiar to everyone who has seen a crime movie or watched a cop TV show. But in an actual criminal investigation or arrest situation, it can be hard to know how to actually use those rights.

Generally, Miranda rights involve the right to remain silent and the right to refuse police questioning without an attorney present. Both of these rights apply any time you are in police custody, not just when you are under arrest. That means any time you are in a situation where a “reasonable person” would not feel free to leave, you have the right to avoid incriminating yourself.

When should you use your Miranda rights?

Contrary to popular belief, cooperating with a police investigation does not always end more favorably for you. In some cases, even positive statements of your innocence have led to incriminating evidence in court. In any conversation with a police officer during which you feel you questioned or interrogated, it is best to invoke Miranda rights until your attorney can arrive to assist and advocate for you.

What phrases invoke your Miranda rights?

To use your right to remain silent, you must actually state out loud that you wish to do so. Refusing to speak is ambiguous because the investigating authority may not know if you did not understand the question or do not speak English.

There is no official phrase, but you can use any statement that communicates a clear intent to use your Miranda rights. Examples include:

  • “I wish to remain silent.”
  • “I refuse to speak until my attorney arrives.”
  • “I am using my Miranda rights as long as my attorney is not here.”

The police officer must then pause the interrogation.

Can a police officer’s failure to read the Miranda warning cause a mistrial?

If the police officer did not explicitly state the Miranda warning before an arrest, you may be able to request that the court not consider any statements you made in their evidence. However, failure to read Miranda rights will not trigger a mistrial.