“You have the right to remain silent” is one of the very few statements from Supreme Court law that Americans know by heart, and for a good reason. According to attorneys, the best thing anyone can do after an arrest is to remain absolutely silent. Not only is it the safest plan, but you’ll reduce the risk of damaging your defense by 100%.
The statement beginning with, “You have a right to remain silent” derives from the famous Miranda v. Arizona case of 1966. The reading of the “Miranda Rights” came as a response to decades of forced confessions that violated the Fifth Amendment. Some of the cases studied by the Supreme Court included physical bullying and in some instances, actual torture to gain confessions from defendants. Thanks to the Miranda case of the sixties, we don’t have to speak when police ask us a question. But there are a few things to keep in mind in order to avoid psychological strategies that could lead to a dubious or inadvertent ‘confession’.
Remaining Silent – Exercising Your Rights
It’s one thing to hear the statement recited by police officers on your arrest, but how do you remain silent in the middle of a high-stakes police investigation? There are two things every defendant must say in order to effectively “remain silent”: one, ask for your attorney, and two, insist on not answering any questions.
If you decide to remain silent without asking to see your attorney or informing the police of your decision to “remain silent”, law enforcement may revert to psychological methods or fear-based tactics to goad you into talking. Anything you say, except to request an attorney or stop your interrogation, will be to your disadvantage in court.
What if I’m Innocent?
Unfortunately, that will do little to assist your defense. When police arrest you, even heartfelt and sincere appeals to your innocence can be construed as remorseless or shameless in court if the police fail to uncover evidence of your alleged innocence. Wrongful convictions often feature those who rely on the justice system to discover their innocence, but any pleas to the contrary go unheeded and end up in the hands of your prosecutor.
Your Statements are Prosecutor Material
Since your statements, unsupervised and spur-of-the-moment, could be confused, jumbled, amorphous or highly emotional, it’s highly recommended to say nothing at all. These often half-baked utterances are all fodder for your prosecutor later on. Prepare to hear these repeated back to you by a prosecutor who is more than happy to use them to incriminate your case and point to your guilt. We often say things we regret or didn’t quite mean that way, which is why you – especially after an arrest – is the best time to hold your tongue.
Talking to Your Attorney
If the crime you’re accused of is a serious one, it’s even more important that you remain absolutely silent until you can speak to an attorney. Remaining silent gives your attorney a much better chance to defend you than the alternative. Your attorney will be able to understand the severity of the crime you’ve been charged with, and won’t have to work with anything you’ve said to police officers that could be construed as an omission. When the police say, “Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law”, they mean it.
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