THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT

In our experience, local police and law enforcement officers can usually be counted on to act fairly and professionally when interacting with members of the public. Nevertheless, it is still important for you to understand your rights. So today we want to revisit one of the most important constitutional rights that we all share — the right to remain silent. In the United States, the right to remain silent comes from that part of the Fifth Amendment which says that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This is also known as your right against self-incrimination. These rights are communicated to you with the familiar words used by law enforcement: 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? These five sentences together are known as a Miranda Warning. They are the result of the decision by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966). As a result of the Miranda decision, law enforcement officials must specifically advise anyone taken into custody of the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney. It is important for you to remember that while you have a right to remain silent, it has to be asserted by you or it will be waived. You affirmatively assert your...

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution gives each of us some of our most valuable rights as U.S. citizens. It specifically gives each of us the right to be secure in our homes. It also protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, because these rights are personal —  only you can assert them. And if you don’t assert them, no one will assert them on your behalf. In fact, you actually waive your rights when you fail to personally assert them. Moreover, with very limited exceptions the government does not have to explain your rights to you before asking you to do something that will waive those rights. Because the 4th Amendment is one of the fundamental underpinnings of individual liberty in our society, a look at its history is informative. The founders of our country generally agreed that all persons had a natural right to be free from government intrusion into their homes. In fact, one of the biggest grievances that led to the American Revolution was the use of “writs of assistance” by the British government. With a “writ of assistance,” the King’s representatives could enter your property with no notice and for no particular reason. In a well known case from that time, Boston lawyer James Otis represented a group of merchants who sued the British government claiming that the use of writs of assistance against was unjust. While Mr. Otis lost the case, his argument condemning writs of assistance and general search warrants was considered by many (including John Adams who was present in the courtroom) to be one of the sparks...