You have many rights as someone who is accused of a crime. It is easy to forget this, because the way criminal charges are handled in the media, there is a heavy implication of guilt and plenty of anger aimed towards the defendant — even though he or she is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.
Some of your most important rights, though, are your Miranda rights. Anyone who is accused of a crime must be read the Miranda warning before they are arrested. You probably already know it by heart:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
There are a number of distinct rights in that warning. First, you don’t have to answer any questions the police ask you. You have the right to remain silent, and by invoking it and informing the police you wish to remain silent, they have to immediately stop their interrogation at that point.
You also have the right to an attorney, regardless of whether you can afford one or not. Having a criminal defense attorney by your side when you are accused of a crime is essential because your attorney can answer your questions and protect you from certain legal tactics by the police and prosecutors.