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A closer look at the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution -- III

In today's post, we'll continue our ongoing discussion of the constitutional protections afforded by the Fifth Amendment in an attempt to help people better understand how the criminal justice system works.  

Specifically, we'll carry on with our examination of that part of the amendment, which states "no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." 

What happens if law enforcement officials fail to read a suspect their Miranda rights?

Any failure by law enforcement officials to read a suspect their Miranda rights upon being taken into custody will generally be viewed by the courts as a violation of the Fifth Amendment and result in the suppression of any statements the suspect may have made. In other words, these statements won't be admitted into evidence.

This doesn't apply, however, if the suspect has waived their Miranda rights.

What constitutes a waiver of Miranda rights?

The law holds that a valid waiver of Miranda rights occurs where a suspect has acted knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily.

How exactly is it determined whether a suspect made the waiver knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily?

When determining if a suspect's waiver of Miranda rights is made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily, the court will examine what is known as the totality of the circumstances. As implied by the name, this standard means a court will take everything into account, including all facts and context.

What if a suspect speaks spontaneously?

If a suspect speaks spontaneously and before being read their Miranda rights, their statements can be used against them if they were not prompted by any sort of law enforcement interrogation.

We will continue to examine the Fifth Amendment in future posts. In the meantime, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible if you have been arrested or formally charged in order to protect your rights and your future. 

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