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You Have the Right to Remain Silent…

Police School [between 1909 and 1940]. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.28466.

Police School [between 1909 and 1940]. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.28466.

The above phrase is one of the most recognized in the U.S. criminal justice system.  It has been included in so many TV shows and movies that I imagine many people will automatically continue to recite the rest of the words!

June 13, 2016, was the 50th anniversary of the famous Supreme Court decision in the case of Miranda v. Arizona, which gave rise to what is now commonly referred to as the “Miranda warning.”  This week, the Law Library of Congress will hold an event about the depiction of law in popular culture, which will include a montage of film clips showing the reading of the Miranda warning in movies and TV shows over the last 50 years.  The Law Library has also produced an online publication commemorating the 50th anniversary of the decision.  There you can find various documents, including “exchanges among key stakeholders from the time of the trial, a few of whom are now historical figures of great renown.”

Due to the sheer number of references to the warning in popular culture, people in many other countries might also have a pretty good knowledge of its content and wording.  But do their own police officers actually use the same, or similar, warnings when arresting or questioning suspects?

If you’ve ever wondered about the answer to this question, or if you’ve just started wondering about it now, the Law Library has a great resource for you.  We have published on our website a report, titled Miranda Warning Equivalents Abroad, that provides information on the requirements for law enforcement officers in 108 countries to inform persons arrested or questioned for an offense of their right to remain silent and/or right to consult a lawyer.  Where possible, our foreign law specialists and analysts have included the actual wording that is to be used in a particular country.

"No. 2605. A nut cracker." ("Photograph shows policeman holding a nightstick.") (c. 1909.) Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

“No. 2605. A nut cracker.” (“Photograph shows policeman holding a nightstick.”) (c. 1909.) Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a27094.

The countries have been divided into their respective regions: Americas and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.  As you look through the different entries, you will see that in some countries a requirement to inform a suspect of his or her rights is specifically set out in legislation or constitutional provisions; in others, the requirements have come from court decisions; and in some cases there are other relevant documents, such as police manuals and rules issued by judges.  There might even be a combination of some or all of these different approaches.  Many Commonwealth countries, for example, historically applied a form of caution expressed in the English Judges’ Rules, which date back to 1912.  In some cases these rules are still referred to, but in many of the countries there are now relevant statutory provisions and other documents that set out the requirements.

A quick search through the report for references to constitutions shows that constitutional provisions explicitly require that certain rights information and cautions be given to suspects in at least twelve countries.  It is far more common for the requirement to be included in a country’s criminal procedure code.  I found around 40 references to such codes in the report (although constitutional provisions might also be relevant in some of the countries).  In several countries, the relevant provisions are found in legislation that sets out the powers and responsibilities of police.

The laws of some countries specifically require that a person be informed of their rights in a language that he or she understands, and even provide that a police officer check that the person does in fact understand what they have been told.  While we didn’t locate the actual wording of the warnings given by police for many countries, here is a selection of what we did find:

Canada

You do not have to say anything unless you wish to do so.  You have nothing to hope from any promise of favour and nothing to fear from any threat whether or not you say anything.  Anything you say may be used as evidence.

It is my duty to inform you that you have the right to retain and instruct counsel of your choice in private and without delay.  Before you decide to answer any question concerning this investigation you may call a lawyer of your choice or get free advice from Duty Counsel.  If you wish to contact Legal Aid duty counsel I can provide you with a telephone number and a telephone will be made available to you.

Queensland, Australia

You have the right to telephone or speak to a friend or relative to inform that person where you are and to ask him or her to be present during questioning.

You also have the right to telephone or speak to a lawyer of your choice to inform the lawyer where you are and to arrange or attempt to arrange for the lawyer to be present during questioning.

If you want to telephone or speak to any of these people, questioning will be delayed for a reasonable time for that purpose.

Is there anyone you wish to telephone or speak to?

Before I ask you any questions I must tell you that you have the right to remain silent.

This means you do not have to say anything, answer any question or make any statement unless you wish to do so.

However, if you do say something or make a statement, it may later be used as evidence.

Do you understand?

Philippines

You have the right to remain silent.  Any statement you make may be used against you in a court of law in the Philippines.  You have the right to have a competent and independent counsel preferably of your own choice.  If you cannot afford the services of a counsel, the government will provide you one.  Do you understand these rights?

Solomon Islands

If you want to remain silent you may do so. But if you want to tell your side you think carefully about what you say because I shall write what you say down and may tell a court what you say if you go to court.  Do you understand?

Botswana

Do you wish to say anything?  You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so but whatever you say will be taken down in writing and may be given in evidence.

This was a very interesting report to research, and we hope you enjoy reading it!

One Comment

  1. Peter Mann
    September 15, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    It is far more common for the requirement to be included in a country’s criminal procedure code. I found around 40 references to such codes in the report

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