I am watching DS9 for the first time (almost at the end of season 4) and it struck me that whenever a character is arrested, it seems that they are never told their rights and/or what they're being charged with.

When Lt. Reese enters the room to arrest Cassidy Yates for assisting the Maquis, wouldn't he have to tell her something like "Cassidy Yates, you are under arrest for aiding and abetting terrorism. Federation law requires me to inform you that you have the right to remain silent, and that you have the right to an advocate..." etc etc.

But I've never seen anything like this in the Treks I've watched (VOY and DS9, some TNG). So, does the Federation have Miranda rights or their equivalent?


4 Answers 4


As mentioned in another answer, in the US, Miranda rights are attached to interrogations, not arrests.

One crewmember of the Enterprise-D was interrogated without being told of his right to remain silent, though he was offered a lawyer:

PICARD: Please sit down, Mister Tarses. For the record, will you tell us your name and position?
TARSES: Simon Tarses, Crewman First Class, medical technician.
PICARD: I assure you this is an informal inquiry. We are not accusing you of anything. However, if you would like counsel, it can be provided for you.
TARSES: No, sir. I have nothing to hide.

Later, he invoked the right to remain silent on advice of counsel (again, he had not been previously advised of this right, so Riker had to tell him about it):

PICARD: This hearing is convened on Stardate 44780 as a continuing inquiry into the activities of Crewman Simon Tarses. Mister Tarses, for your own protection, I have assigned a counsel to you in the person of Commander William Riker.
SABIN: Isn't it true that the paternal grandfather of whom you speak was not a Vulcan but was in fact a Romulan? That it is Romulan blood you carry and a Romulan heritage that you honour?
(Riker whispers in Simon's ear)
SABIN: We're waiting, Mister Tarses.
TARSES: On the advice of my counsel I refuse to answer that question, in that the answer may serve to incriminate me.

Later, we learn that Worf is aghast that he did this, but Picard defends it by calling it "the Seventh Guarantee" and also mentions a "Constitution" of some sort:

WORF: He refused to answer the question about his Romulan grandfather.
PICARD: That is not a crime, Worf. Nor can we infer his guilt because he didn't respond.
WORF: Sir, if a man were not afraid of the truth, he would answer.
PICARD: Oh, no. We cannot allow ourselves think that. The Seventh Guarantee is one of the most important rights granted by the Federation. We cannot take a fundamental principle of the Constitution and turn it against a citizen.

In conclusion: The right to remain silent clearly exists, but it appears that Starfleet personnel do not need to be advised of it before being interrogated in a Starfleet setting. The right to an attorney also exists, and it appears that personnel are routinely advised of that right (whether this is mandatory is less clear). We do not know whether these rights also apply to civilians. However, it seems unlikely that civilians would be accorded fewer rights than Starfleet personnel, in my entirely subjective opinion.

All quotes from Star Trek: The Next Generation episode 4x21 "The Drumhead".

  • Minor semantic point, Tarsis is explicitly an enlisted crewman, not an officer.
    – ench
    Jul 3, 2017 at 22:20
  • @ench: Removed all mentions of "officer."
    – Kevin
    Jul 3, 2017 at 22:26

Contrary to what you may think from watching TV, police officers are not required to issue the Miranda warning at the time of arrest; only before beginning an interrogation.

The duty to warn only arises when police officers conduct custodial interrogations. The Constitution does not require that a defendant be advised of the Miranda rights as part of the arrest procedure, or once an officer has probable cause to arrest, or if the defendant has become a suspect of the focus of an investigation. Custody and interrogation are the events that trigger the duty to warn.

In addition, the Miranda Warning is an aspect of United States law. Other countries do not necessarily have anything similar. Considering that the United Federation of Planets represents all of Earth's nations - as well as several alien planets and their nations it's entirely probable that the legal proceedings of an arrest have changed significantly in between now and the time in which Star Trek is set.

In other words, we have no reason to assume they should be given such a warning. The fact that they do not, in fact, issue such a warning would seem to stand as proof.

  • 1
    The second part, that the Miranda rights are very US centric, I think is spot on. Also, @Aurelius, the fact that you have a just society (the Federation) has nothing to do with the police informing you of your rights before an arrest. Many societies right now on Earth are also just, but don't have this either.
    – Hans Olo
    Jun 19, 2017 at 19:13
  • 5
    @Loki As per loc.gov/law/help/miranda-warning-equivalents-abroad/index.php This report contains short summaries describing warnings similar to the Miranda warning that are required in 108 jurisdictions around the globe. so the concept is not necessarily US centric.
    – Peter M
    Jun 19, 2017 at 19:21
  • 6
    @Aurelius One could argue that such "basic" laws and rights are taught to citizens as part of their education, such that the need to inform people becomes redundant.
    – Mwr247
    Jun 19, 2017 at 19:24
  • 1
    @Mwr247 As per the link I posted, for some jurisdictions an arrest is only deemed legal if the equivalent miranda rights are read.
    – Peter M
    Jun 19, 2017 at 19:44
  • 6
    Or it is a further proof that Federation is a military dictatorship which (just as real ones) have mouth full of high values... Jun 19, 2017 at 21:09

"Miranda rights" is a misnomer — it is not a right, but a procedure that law enforcement officials have been required to follow to better ensure that things that actually are government-granted rights, such as the "right to remain silent", are not violated.

From a cynical point of view, the choice to read rights immediately upon arrest has nothing to do with protecting the rights of the arrested — given the procedure they are required to follow, reading the rights so early simply ensures law enforcement can use as evidence anything the arrested says while mouthing off in the police car.

Given the somewhat idyllic view of society portrayed by many Star Trek series, one can easily imagine that individuals are generally better informed, that law enforcement procedures are more just and fair, and officials are more sensitive to the rights of the accused, so there simply is no need for any procedure resembling the Miranda warning; such a thing would be entirely superfluous, and its requirement would do more harm than good.

  • 2
    This is fair, but I also believe that DS9 missed lots of opportunities to really explore how a loosely-governed outpost would repeatedly grate against the Federation sensibilities of its Starfleet commander in areas of commerce, law, and personal rights.
    – Neil B
    Jun 20, 2017 at 11:02
  • 1
    @Hurkyl your semantic rant at the beginning has little relevance here, and is wrong. The Miranda v. Arizona case established that an individual under arrest has the right to know their rights. If anything, it should be called the Miranda right, but I think the conventional "Miranda rights" is a sufficient term.
    – BlackThorn
    Jun 20, 2017 at 15:30
  • @TBear: I disagree that it's irrelevant. the OP is phrased as if the Miranda warning itself is a 'basic human right' that deserves protecting, and that misconception needs to be dispelled to address the implicit idea that it's something that the federation should do. Okay, I suppose that comment is irrelevant if one doesn't see that premise implicit in the OP and thus the need to address it... but I do find it present and worth addressing.
    – user12616
    Jun 20, 2017 at 20:42
  • @Hurkyl but the Miranda v. Arizona case established that the Miranda warning is a basic human right, according to the U.S. supreme court, to all who are interrogated or incarcerated. Many obviously guilty people walk free today because their right to hear that warning was violated. I do not believe the OP was implicitly or explicitly asking whether "Miranda rights" are actually rights under the U.S. government today, OP is asking whether the Federation extends those same rights.
    – BlackThorn
    Jun 20, 2017 at 20:52
  • @Hurkyl: I don't think this is a misnomer. Constitutional law itself is not a law, but it is a list of laws. Miranda rights are not a right, but they are (a list of) rights. Although it is of course possible for people to misinterpret it regardless of the specific semantics :)
    – Flater
    Jun 28, 2017 at 10:56

I was just watching the Voyager episode Meld and I noted that when Tuvok is charging Suder with murder, he says...

TUVOK: I must advise you that under Starfleet Directive one zero one you do not have to answer any questions.

  • 2
    Good find. This certain seems to suggest a set of standard "rights", albeit these are starfleet regulations rather than Federation Law.
    – Valorum
    Jun 22, 2017 at 23:22
  • 1
    This is interesting, since Suder was a Maquis, not Starfleet. So it makes sense for Tuvok to explain his rights, where a career officer or enlisted crew member would have presumably already known this.
    – ench
    Jul 3, 2017 at 22:18

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