When less is more: exercising your right to remain silent

On Behalf of | Jun 1, 2020 | Criminal Defense

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” You’ve seen enough movies and television shows to know your Miranda rights before they’re even read to you. But have you ever stopped to consider what the right to remain silent really means and how to invoke this fundamental right?

“Mum” is not always the word

When you’re placed under arrest, the police should inform you of your Miranda rights. These rights include your right to legal representation and your right to remain silent. You would think that at this point, your refusal to say anything would be a clear indication that you’re invoking your right to silence. However, the Supreme Court has held that mere silence and body language are ambiguous. You need to take some sort of affirmative step to let the police know you’re exercising your right to remain silent.

Invoking your right can be as explicit as telling the police, “I’m invoking my Miranda right to remain silent.” You can also tell them you intend to remain silent or you will not speak until you’ve spoken with an attorney.

If you fail to invoke your right to remain silent, the police can continue to question you. They may leave you alone for a while, but then come back repeatedly until you’re worn down. The key is to be explicit so there is no room for alleged misunderstanding. Saying, “I don’t know. I feel like I should maybe talk to a lawyer,” could be considered ambiguous and may enable the police to continue with their questions.

You’re not being called to the principal’s office

Maybe when you were in school you could talk your way out of trouble. Don’t think you can pull off such a stunt with the police.

The desire to explain your actions can be strong. However, remember that when people are placed under arrest, the police probably won’t let them go because of a convincing story. You may not be able to talk your way out of trouble, but you can certainly talk yourself into trouble. Tell the police you’re not talking until you’ve reached out to legal counsel.