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Invoking your constitutional right to remain silent

On Behalf of | Dec 17, 2020 | Criminal Defense

Before officers perform a custodial interrogation, they must inform suspects of their constitutional rights. An important one of these is your right to remain silent. This right comes from the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects you from self-incrimination. 

If you have committed a serious criminal offense, you may want to practice invoking your right to remain silent before officers arrest you. After all, in the face of an intimidating interrogation, you may freeze up and inadvertently say something incriminating or otherwise damaging. 

Staying silent may not be enough

If you simply say nothing, officers and prosecutors cannot typically use your silence against you. By itself, staying silent does not stop police questioning, though. Until you affirmatively assert your right to remain silent, detectives may continue to try to illicit information. Eventually, due to exhaustion, frustration or something else, you may begin to talk. 

Removing ambiguity is critical

While speaking up to stay silent may seem counterintuitive, it is exactly what you probably should do. That is, you must remove any ambiguity about your intentions. Because using precise language is key, you may want to say, “I am invoking my constitutional right to remain silent.” Officers should stop questioning you immediately after you utter this phrase. 

Requesting a lawyer also works

Along with a fundamental right not to incriminate yourself, you have a right to have legal counsel present for police questioning. Asking for a lawyer also stops a custodial interrogation in its tracks. If you feel uncomfortable asserting your right to remain silent, requesting an attorney may accomplish the same objective.