Turn on any police drama and you are likely to hear the familiar refrain of “You have the right to remain silent,” along with “Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law,” and so forth. These are known as Miranda Rights. They stem from a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that mandated law enforcement officials inform you of your right to have legal representation present before being interrogated. Yet does that mean that you must be informed of these rights any time you are stopped by police?

The definition of Miranda Rights (as shared by The Legal Information Institute) states that they must be given before law enforcement authorities proceed with a custodial interrogation. What that means is that you must first be in police custody in order for them to apply. It is generally accepted that being in police custody means that you have been arrested. You have been arrested when your freedoms have been deprived in any significant way. The use of handcuffs or other restraints may not be necessary, but generally, you will be informed that you are indeed under arrest.

Yet what if you are being held for a brief and cursory period? An example may be when you are stopped by law enforcement on the street or asked to come in for questioning. In this case, you are not arrested, but rather detained. In this case, officers are not required to read you the Miranda Rights, and whatever you tell them may be admissable as evidence at a later date. You may argue, however, that the circumstances of your detention did indeed constitute and arrest. Being detained for a prolonged period of time or having multiple officers in the room during questioning could be viewed as you having been arrested.