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The Right to Remain Silent

We all have heard the phrase, "You have the right to remain silent".  We hear it all of the time on television and read it in books.  But what does it really mean?  Actually, it means exactly what it says.  If you are stopped by the police or arrested for the commission of a crime, you do not have to talk to the police, and your silence cannot be used against you in court.  The 5th Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees each citizen the right to remain free from self-incrimination.  Of course, if you have not broken the law, it may be in your best interest to be candid with the police and answer their questions and avoid being searched or arrested.

If you have broken the law and you do talk to the police, you may incriminate yourself by talking and providing corroborating information, leading to your arrest and conviction.  I have often had clients think they can talk their way out of a situation by answering questions asked by the police.  This usually leads to giving the police information they didn't already have to support the charges against you, or confirming or corroborating information someone else gave the police about you, again leading to your arrest and potential conviction.

I am always asked if remaining silent signals the police that you are guilty causing the police to file charges against you.  The answer is that it may, but if you lie to the police or give them information they didn't already have, you may cause them to charge you anyway, and you've made their job easier.  What you tell them can be used against you, and they don't have to find other evidence of your crime.  What you don't tell them can't hurt you.  Be polite and courteous and respectful and remember you can remain silent.


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