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3 things to remember about the right to remain silent

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

If there is one civil right related to criminal charges that most people know, it is probably the right to remain silent. It is part of the Miranda warning, which many people can recite due to watching movies and TV shows with criminal justice storylines.

Despite knowing the basic idea that someone has a right to remain silent, many people don’t understand the true implications of that right or how to properly use it when facing criminal accusations or police investigation efforts. People who learn more about their right to remain silent are less likely to make mistakes if they become a subject of police scrutiny.

The right technically exists prior to an arrest

Most people don’t hear about their right to remain silent until police officers arrest them and intend to question them. However, the right to avoid self-incrimination exists even before police officers perform an arrest. Those talking to police officers in an informal setting are under no obligation to answer their questions. A driver stopped by a police officer, for example, does not have to answer questions about their previous activities. They simply need to provide the documents that a police officer requests. Knowing that one can refuse to answer law enforcement questions can help people avoid implicating themselves.

Silence in state custody extends beyond interrogation

People arrested by police officers may invoke their right to remain silent while in the police cruiser or during questioning. However, they may talk at length while in state custody. They might discuss what led to their arrest with other people and holding facilities or may call friends or family while waiting for their arraignment. Other people in state custody could act as jailhouse informants and recount anything someone says to the police for their own benefit. Conversations using phone systems in jails or prisons are subject to recording and could end up giving the state strong evidence to use against a defendant.

Violations of rights can affect the state’s case

If police officers fail to inform someone of their Miranda rights before questioning, that is a violation of best practices and that person’s rights. If police officers continue questioning someone aggressively after they invoke their right to remain silent, that could also be a violation of their rights. If defense attorneys can prove that a violation of someone’s rights occurred, they can ask the courts to exclude or set aside certain evidence.

Learning about and using the right to remain silent is important for anyone facing criminal charges. Civil rights exist for a reason, and people who know how to use them can potentially avoid – or successfully respond to – unfair prosecution.