Dealing with the police can be confusing and frightening, regardless of whether you think you’ve done something wrong. Knowing what to do (and what not to do) can make all the difference in whether you are arrested, charged, or even convicted. Invoking your right to remain silent is a crucial part of this.
“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? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
The Miranda Warning included above is a constitutional requirement established by a Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966). In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Ernesto Miranda, who had been tried and found guilty of kidnapping and rape based on a signed confession and other evidence. The court held that Miranda’s confession was inadmissible because he gave it without the knowledge of his right to remain silent and his right to an attorney.
The case was remanded to Arizona for retrial, where Miranda was again found guilty – but without his confession used as evidence against him. The Supreme Court’s decision on this matter remains valid today.
Your Fifth Amendment Right to Remain Silent
Why did the Supreme Court rule in Miranda’s favor in this landmark decision? The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlines several key protections, one of which is the right to remain silent. The Fifth Amendment specifically states that a person shall not "…be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” The Miranda Warning is meant to remind or inform a person of their right to avoid self-incrimination by remaining silent.
Your Sixth Amendment Right to an Attorney
The Sixth Amendment grants criminal defendants the right to counsel, among other crucial protections. A person who has been arrested for or charged with a crime has the right to an attorney. If they cannot afford to pay an attorney, one must be provided for them. The Miranda Warning tells a person of their right to legal counsel, whether a private criminal defense attorney or a public defender.
How Do I Invoke My Right to Remain Silent?
Your Miranda rights should be read to you when you are placed in police custody, which basically means when you are not free to leave. When the officer tells you your rights, they should ask if you understand them and are willing to waive them by speaking anyway. The best way to invoke your right to remain silent in this situation is to politely refuse and request an attorney. You can say that you understand your rights but that you do not wish to speak to the officer without your attorney present.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have not yet been arrested but are concerned about the questions the officer is asking, you can still protect your rights. Remaining as calm and polite as possible, you can state that you are not comfortable answering any questions without your attorney present.
Every situation is different, so you will need to use your best judgment when determining how to interact with a police officer. Trying to argue with the officer or physically resisting arrest is not recommended, even if you believe you are in the right. The best thing you can do is keep your mouth shut and wait until you can talk to your attorney. If you were wrongfully arrested, your attorney can work to secure your release. Attacking or resisting an officer carries criminal charges of its own, and that’s the last thing you need if you’re suspected of any crime.
You may have heard that remaining silent and asking for an attorney can make you look guilty. While it may not protect you from an arrest, invoking your right to silence and counsel cannot be used against you in court. Statements you make after you’re read your Miranda rights, however, can. Be careful and put your interests first.
What Happens When I Invoke My Right to Remain Silent?
Once you inform law enforcement that you are invoking your right to remain silent, they must stop interrogating you. Once you request an attorney, they must stop asking you questions until your attorney is present. If they persist and keep asking you questions, politely refuse to answer.
Ask a Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer
No two criminal cases are alike, just like no two people are alike. You will need to decide what you think is best based on your unique situation, but the right choice, in the long run, will be to put your constitutional rights first. Do not agree to questioning without your attorney present. Do not waive your rights after hearing the Miranda Warning. Innocence or guilt aside, answering questions only gives law enforcement more information, and they will use that information to try to put you behind bars.
At Thomas & Paulk, we’ve fought for clients across Florida for over 20 years. Our Tampa criminal defense attorneys know how to handle communication with law enforcement officers and prosecutors so our clients’ rights are protected to the fullest. Invoke your right to remain silent and put an attorney in your corner who has the skill, determination, and knowledge to successfully protect your freedom. Call (813) 321-7323 today to learn more!