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How to exercise your right to remain silent

On Behalf of | Feb 20, 2024 | Criminal Defense

The Fifth Amendment protects you against being compelled to be a witness against yourself in a criminal case. This is often referred to as the right to remain silent. Knowing how to exercise this right when questioned by law enforcement or involved in legal proceedings can help protect your interests.

Remaining silent means you avoid making statements that could be misunderstood, misquoted or used out of context to build a case against you in court. It can help protect your interests if the matter escalates to court.

Invoking your right to remain silent

Remaining quiet in the face of police interrogation does not necessarily invoke your right to remain silent. Such body language signs are considered ambiguous and not an express intention to invoke your Fifth Amendment rights.

Directly tell the interrogator that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent and will first speak to your attorney. No specific words are required to do this as long as you are not vague or indirect with the message. Be clear and to the point. 

After invoking the right to remain silent, the police are not likely to continue questioning you as anything you say cannot be used against you in court. Do not answer anything should the questioning persist. Remember, your right to remain silent is not specific to an interrogator but to all law enforcement officers.

It is also worth noting that certain legal technicalities allow police officers to use your statements against you even without informing you of your right to remain silent. It could make or break your defense if you are subsequently charged with a criminal offense.

Seeking qualified assistance before answering any questions by law enforcement when under custody can help assert your legal rights and significantly shape the outcome of your legal proceedings for the better.