Anyone who has watched a United States law TV show has heard the term Miranda rights. Most commonly, US law enforcement officers will read a criminal suspect their Miranda rights as a warning that they have a right to remain silent and anything they say can be used against them. The law enforcement office provides this scripted statement before they interrogate the suspect to preserve the admissibility of their statements for use against the suspect in court.
Miranda rights vs the right to remain silent
In Australia, we don’t have a Miranda Warning that will be read to someone suspected of committing an offence. Under Australian law, if you believe you are a suspect in the commission of a crime, then you have a right to refrain from answering any questions surrounding the alleged offence.
Australian law also protects an accused person in court from any inference that exercising their right to silence is an admission of guilt. In most situations, this means that a jury would need to determine the innocence or guilt of a party from the facts of the case and not the silence of the accused.
How is a jury advised of the right to silence?
As soon evidence is presented to the court that an accused person has exercised their right to silence, the presiding judge should direct the jury that they can’t interpret that as an admission of guilt.
Should I exercise my right to silence?
In Australia, you won’t hear a police office telling you “you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…”, but you do have a similar right to silence as our American cousins.
Remaining silent if you believe you are suspected of committing a crime stops you from being pressured into saying something you didn’t want to say, and also allows you time to seek legal advice from a criminal lawyer.
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