“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

You’ve more than likely heard this statement, known as the Miranda warning, countless times in courtroom dramas, reality shows and popular cop movies, but what does it mean exactly? How did we get that right, and how do we invoke it?


The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that American citizens have the right to not incriminate themselves when accused of a crime. This is where the phrase “pleading the Fifth” originated. The 1966 Supreme Court ruling Miranda v. Arizona resulted in the Miranda warning, also known as Miranda rights. Police officers must now recite this right before questioning an individual who is under arrest in the U.S.

An Exception

The 1984 Supreme Court ruling of New York v. Quarles determined that a suspect doesn’t have to have his or her Miranda rights read if an officer believes there is an immediate public safety risk. In these types of cases, a suspect’s admission can be used as evidence in court, even if the officer did not inform him or her of the right to remain silent.

What about the Minors?

Recent stories such as the Texas teenager arrested in September 2015 for bringing a homemade clock to school have brought attention to the rights of students who are arrested by campus police officers. In these cases, students have the same rights as any U.S. citizen under arrest; law enforcement must read them the Miranda warning ahead of any questioning, even on school grounds.