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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

What you need to know about your right to remain silent

Facing criminal charges is often enough to rattle even the most stoic individuals. If officers suspect you have engaged in criminal activity, you can expect them to ask you some serious questions. After all, they have an investigation to complete. 

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from self-incrimination. To be sure you know about this right, officers usually must inform you of it. Exercising your right to remain silent, though, can be challenging. Before you find yourself sitting in an interrogation room, you should know a few things about asserting your right to remain silent. 

Being clear matters 

If you do not wish to incriminate yourself or otherwise cooperate with a police investigation, you must be clear about your intentions. That is, when it comes to exercising your right to remain silent, you want to do what you can to remove ambiguity. Telling officers, “I am exercising my right to remain silent,” works well. By contrast, saying, “I plan to remain silent,” may be unclear. That is, officers may think you intend to exercise your rights at some point in the future. 

Staying quiet may not be enough 

If you simply say nothing to police officers, prosecutors cannot use statements against you in a criminal case. Still, staying quiet does not indicate to investigators that you are choosing to exercise your right to remain silent. It simply says you are not answering questions presently. Even after hours of silence, officers may continue to interrogate you until you affirmatively assert your rights. 

Asking for an attorney works 

Finally, you may exercise your right to remain silent by asserting another right: Your right to legal counsel. Police officers can be extraordinarily intimidating. Further, detectives receive training on how to get suspects to talk. If you feel uncomfortable asserting your right to remain silent, you may want to ask for a lawyer. When you do, officers must stop questioning you until after you have spoken to an attorney. 

In the United States, you do not have to incriminate yourself. You should, though, think about how to assert your right to remain silent before officers arrest you for a crime. With a bit of effort, you can likely keep from making matters worse.

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