We all know that we have the right to remain silent. After all, we hear the phrase all the time in movies and on television whenever a person gets arrested.
However, what most of us do not know is how to properly assert that right, what it entails, and how it can protect us. Therefore, we have taken the time to write a post dedicated to explaining what this right is and how it can help you.
What is the Right to Remain Silent?
Your right to remain silent comes directly from the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the concept of not being forced into incriminating yourself. The Supreme Court has interpreted this provision to require police officers to inform you of this right before you are subjected to custodial interrogations.
Although Hollywood makes it seem like the second you get arrested an officer must read you your Miranda rights, this is not always the case. Remember, your right to silent kicks in when the police have you in custody and are subjecting you to an interrogation.
This means briefly detaining you on the street (instead of arresting you and questioning you down at the police station), will not usually count as “custodial” or an “interrogation.” Ultimately, when used correctly, your right to remain silent can be a powerful tool that protects you from revealing information that will be used against you in a criminal case.
Police Tricks to Look Out For
The police are much smarter than we give them credit for. Whenever they make an arrest, there job is on the line. The last thing they want to do is act in a way that will compromise their ability to put food on the table for their families. Therefore, police officers are forced to keep up with all of the advancements in criminal law and are very aware of how far they can push the boundaries of it without getting into trouble.
A common example of this is when police continue to question you even after you invoked your right to silence. You might think that this right compels the officers to stop talking. In reality, however, it does not. The Supreme Court ruled that even if you invoked your right to remain silent regarding a line of questioning about one crime, police can question you about a different crime without violating your rights. This technique is commonly used by officers to trick you into talking about a different crime, so do not be fooled!
It is worth noting that if you invoke your Sixth Amendment right to an attorney, the police cannot ask you any other questions until your criminal defense attorney arrives. In this sense, your right to counsel is much stronger than your right to silence.
Typically, you will want to explicitly invoke both rights while emphasizing that you will not answer a single question until your attorney arrives.
Some people think that invoking your right to remain silent will make you look guilty. This is simply untrue. The fact that you invoked this right is not allowed to be used against you in a court of law. Likewise, law enforcement officers are not going to treat you any differently. Either way, they are going to grill you. Thus, you might as well shield yourself with every right our Founders gave you.
Adam H. Rosenblum of The Rosenblum Law Firm is a criminal defense attorney licensed to practice in both New York and New Jersey.