Why Exercising Your Right To Remain Silent Is Crucial

Exercising Your Right To Remain Silent

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…” These are the opening words of the Miranda warning, and even if you’ve never been arrested, you’ve probably heard the phrase on television. Here we’ll take a quick look at what the Miranda warning means and why remaining silent after an arrest can be critical to your defense.

A Little History

One of the key protections afforded each U.S. citizen by the Constitution is the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination. Whether you’re being questioned by police or by a prosecutor, you are not required to provide any information that could be used to convict you of a crime. The name “Miranda warning” takes its name from a 1966 court ruling in which the defendant, Ernesto Miranda, was not properly informed of his right to remain silent. Since that ruling, police must inform anyone who is arrested of this right before questioning.

Why Remaining Silent Is Important

 It’s the job of the police to extract information from arrestees and to share this information with prosecutors. This is how the criminal justice system builds cases against defendants. One way police avoid the cost of lengthy or complex prosecutions is to get defendants to admit their guilt. Every bit of information they can persuade you to reveal helps prosecutors make a stronger case against you—and saves them time and money in the process. Don’t do their job for them.

In the emotional climate of an arrest, you may find yourself tempted to explain your side of the story to police. Don’t. Save it for your defense attorney. It’s your attorney’s job to hear your side and to gather facts that aid in your defense.

Often police will attempt to use seemingly idle conversation to get you to admit something incriminating. Don’t take the bait. Remember that by remaining silent, you are not admitting guilt. You are simply refusing to provide information that will be used to aid in your prosecution. Your attorney will be able to advise you on the best way to move forward with your defense. Till then, say nothing.

Salinas v. Texas

In 2013, exercising your right to silence got a little more complicated. That year, the U.S. Supreme Court weakened the Miranda warning by ruling that silence alone is not enough to trigger an arrestee’s protection from self-incrimination. In a controversial 5-4 decision, the Court stated that an arrestee must state aloud that they are invoking their Fifth Amendment right. If you are arrested and do not wish to answer any questions from police, it is important that you clearly invoke your right by saying, “I am invoking my right to remain silent.” This way, you are entering into the record that you are aware of your rights and are exercising them intentionally.

Once you invoke your rights, police are limited in what they can do. If, for example, they continue to question you or press you to make a statement, they risk violating your rights—which could result in the case being invalidated.

We hope these tips will help you navigate the often-complex criminal justice system and provide you with a more informed perspective on your rights as a U.S. citizen. If you or a loved one is arrested, and bail for your release has been set, contact Bond James Bond Inc., who can help you post bail quickly and return you to your home and family.

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