Under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, every U.S. citizen has the fundamental right against self-incrimination (or, as it is more commonly known, the right to remain silent). However, protecting your right to remain silent is not as easy as it sounds, and law enforcement has a number of tricks to convince you to talk even when you do not need to. Here are some important tips you should know about protecting your right to remain silent:
- The Fifth Amendment only applies once you are in police custody
- The Fifth Amendment, sadly, does not protect you from the police if you are not currently in police custody or in the middle of police proceedings. This is because, if you are not in custody, you can presumably just end the conversation and leave if you do not want to talk to the police. Law enforcement will exploit this loophole, however, encouraging people to talk when they are out of custody so they cannot claim a violation of their rights later.
- Staying silent is not enough
- The right to remain silent is not just about refusing to answer questions from the police. You must affirmatively state that you are invoking your rights if you want them to stop trying to interrogate you. If you do not, they will simply keep questioning you and continue putting pressure on you until you either invoke your rights, or you break and start talking.
- Take advantage of your Miranda rights
- While the police must read you your Miranda rights before they can legally begin interrogating you in custody, they are not going to go out of their way to make sure you take advantage of them. They may ask you to waive your Miranda rights, including your right to remain silent, before they interrogate you, but you do not need to comply. Take advantage of your rights, in order to give yourself the best chances at avoiding or minimizing criminal charges.
- Just because you are innocent does not mean you are safe
- Some people are under the misconception that just because they did not commit a crime means it is safe to talk openly to the police. However, this is a naive assumption, as the police do not know who is innocent or guilty, and they are often happy to charge an innocent person with a crime just to say they have solved a case. False charges and false confessions do happen, and invoking your right to remain silent is a good way to avoid the risk of becoming a victim of those horrors.
- Contact a lawyer as soon as you can
- Ultimately, there is only so much you can do on your own. By contacting a lawyer with experience handling criminal defense cases, you can ensure you are represented by someone who knows how to protect you from overreach by law enforcement. Maintain your right to remain silent, contact a lawyer, and you have a much better chance at getting a favorable outcome to your case.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a criminal offense, you will need legal counsel to help you preserve your rights and work to get the best possible outcome for your matter. A New York criminal defense lawyer, who is experienced in handling criminal cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Suffolk County criminal defense attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.