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A waiver of rights is an individual’s act of giving up or relinquishing a certain legal right. The individual must be aware of his intention to waive his rights and should willingly do so and not be coerced. He should express this intention in action or in writing. Other legal terms for a waiver are releases, hold harmless and exculpatory clauses.
A person should first be seen as “reasonable” by the court before surrendering his rights. He should possess his sanity and should be of legal age. Rights that can be waivered are those given constitutionally, statutorily, or contractually. Sometimes, employees automatically waive their rights when they sign certain contracts before being hired. Some rights may include the right to legal action, right to certain confidentiality, and even the freedom of speech, to a certain degree.
The requirement that a person must willingly waive his rights is determined by legal fiction, in which a person is assumed to know the rights he is waiving. One common instance of this assumption is during the arresting of a person. In the US, the Constitution stipulates that law enforcers inform the arrested person of his Miranda rights, or the “right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel” or a lawyer during questioning. If the person suddenly speaks out, whether it is unintentional and spontaneous, he loses his Miranda rights and his action can be interpreted as a waiver.
In court proceedings, an act of waiving your rights can be in the form of pleading guilty. A suspect who pleads guilty to a crime even if he is not the real perpetrator relinquishes his right to a fair trial witnessed by a jury. He also relinquishes his right to have witnesses testify for or against him, as well as the right to testify himself. In some cases, the suspect also gives up his right to appeal. Such cases require the person to sign and write a waiver of rights as evidence of his intention.
More than usual, a waiver of rights can lead to problems and injustice. Sometimes, waiving rights on one occasion can be interpreted as a waiver of rights for succeeding occasions. Other times, a waiver of rights and interests does not just mean giving up a right, but also a refusal to acquire a certain right. If, for example, a person does not contest a mistaken inclusion or exclusion of his name in a legal document, then he has declined the right to be questioned by the court.