Your Right To Remain Silent
Lots of movies and TV shows have made everybody in America familiar with the words, “You have the right to remain silent.” But that pop-culture awareness rarely translates into a full understanding of your legal rights when you’re dealing with the police and an accusation of crime.
Whenever you find yourself in criminal law situation, remember that your constitutional rights guarantee you both the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent.
Ask any criminal defense attorney in Colorado Springs what one thing they’d want to say to a client facing criminal charges, and they’d offer the same advice: Remain silent! The number of clients who fail to do this is truly astonishing and some attorneys even have to deal with their clients speaking to the police after they’ve advised them not to do so.
If the police have already gathered enough evidence to charge you with a crime, nothing you say to them will stop them from doing so. If they don’t have the evidence to make a charge, incautious words you share with them may fill in the puzzle and give them the evidence they’re looking for.
Do not doubt this fact: You cannot help yourself by talking to the police without a lawyer present. If you do speak with the police, the most likely outcome is making yourself harder for your lawyer to defend.
Understanding Your Rights
Note that your right to silence is usually attached to another familiar phrase: “Anything you say can be used against you.” What this means is that you ALWAYS have the right to say “No” if a police officer asks you to answer a question or give consent for a search.
Your rights in this area are easier to understand if you know where they come from. They derive from the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, which states “No person … shall be compelled … to be a witness against himself.”
“Compelled” is the crucial word in the Fifth Amendment. It means that information you provide cannot be turned into evidence if you are required or forced to give it to the police. But if you volunteer such information, it becomes fair game. Exercising your Fifth Amendment right by not responding to questions keeps you from making incriminating statements that the authorities could use against you.
Your Miranda Rights
Applying the Fifth Amendment in this way was codified by the landmark Supreme Court ruling in the case of Miranda v. Arizona (384 US 436, 1966). The ruling firmly established that the Fifth Amendment was to be used to judge the admissibility of statements made to law enforcement officers by defendants.
Although choosing to actively impede a police investigation is a bad idea, that does not mean you need to be fully cooperative, particularly once you understand that you are being considered as a suspect by the police. Cooperating fully and answering questions at that point will only help the prosecutor and hurt you if the case goes to court.
Any time you’re a suspect and you speak to police officers without a lawyer there to advise you, you run the risk of creating evidence against yourself. Even if you think what you are saying is unimportant, you could be doing far more damage than you know.
Your Right To Remain Silent – A Powerful Right
Your right to remain silent is a powerful shield, guaranteed by the Constitution and safeguarded by law. No matter what police officers or detectives might tell you, remaining silent can never be used against you. If your criminal case goes to trial, the fact that you invoked your right to remain silent can’t even be presented to the jury.
The District Attorney cannot mention it, and police officers to whom you refused to speak cannot testify to that effect.
Exercising Your Rights
An admission of guilt offered up to the police at any point in a criminal investigation is no different than pleading guilty in court. Why leap to that stage of the proceedings without legal counsel? If admitting your guilt is truly the best way to defend yourself, let your attorney act to ensure that you get some benefit out of your plea.
Ask To Speak With Your Attorney
US criminal law isn’t just about punishing criminals; it also lays down strict guidelines for the conduct of law enforcement officers.
You have another Constitutional right, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, to receive legal counsel from an attorney.
You can ask to invoke this right before or during an interrogation. No law enforcement authority can continue to interrogate you, under any circumstances, after you have demanded your right to an attorney. The interrogation can only proceed after you have an attorney present to advise you.
This right gives you a tremendous advantage in a police interrogation! Providing information on your own, in a situation in which you’re likely to be afraid, upset, or aggravated, will end badly. What you should do instead is express an appropriate interest in cooperating with the authorities but be very firm about your need to consult with an attorney before you answer any questions.
Make Sure To Have A Criminal Defense Attorney At Your Side
Speaking with a Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney will help in any situation where you are being investigated for or charged with any crime. You can speak freely with your attorney thanks to his or her duty of confidentiality. A lawyer cannot disclose information you share with them to anyone, even if you do not retain the lawyer as your counsel.
This protection is unique; no one else has the same legal right to protect your information. Friends and even relatives may be compelled to give evidence against you, but a criminal defense lawyer can’t be.
Protect yourself and others by exercising your right to remain silent and discussing your case only with your attorney.
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