THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT

It is important for you to know and understand your rights when interacting with the police. So, let’s take a closer look at the right to remain silent.

The right to remain silent is based on the Fifth Amendment which specifically says that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This is also known as the right against self-incrimination.

Most people are familiar with the words used by law enforcement to explain this right:

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?

This is known as a Miranda Warning, and is 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). When a person is in custody, Miranda requires law enforcement to specifically advise you of both your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney.

When you are not being detained or arrested, you have no duty to answer any police questions at all. If you are unsure if have been arrested or detained, you can politely ask the police if you are free to leave.

It is important to remember that you have to actually invoke your right to remain silent. You do this by saying: “I invoke my right to remain silent” or “I am not going to answer any questions without talking to my lawyer first.” In asserting your right to remain silent, you should not offer any explanation or make any excuses for doing so. Once you invoke your right to remain silent, do not waive your rights by starting a conversation with the police.

Finally, if you do say anything to the police, it is critical that whatever you say is true. You should not lie. You should not present false documents such as a fake driver’s license. Any lie you tell or fraud you attempt to perpetrate on the police will only make your situation worse, and could lead to additional criminal charges.