Everyone is familiar with the phrase, “You have the right to remain silent,” followed by “Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.” Most of us have heard this phrase on TV or in movies, while others heard it in real life. This is known as the Miranda warning.
While most people are familiar with the Miranda warning, many of them do not understand the importance of invoking their right to remain silent after being taken into custody.
The right to remain silent is a right protected by the U.S. Constitution. In many cases, invoking this fundamental constitutional right can help you successfully fight the charges and avoid a conviction.
If you have been arrested for any criminal offense, do not hesitate to speak with a McLennan County criminal defense lawyer to understand your rights and ensure that you avoid incriminating yourself following the arrest.
You Must Be Aware of Your Right to Remain Silent
The Fifth Amendment protects American citizens from incriminating themselves during and after an arrest. In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court ruled that arrested persons cannot be questioned by the police until they are made fully aware of their right to remain silent.
That is why police officers are legally required to read your Miranda rights when you are taken into custody. The law enforcement officer must inform you of your rights to:
Consult with a lawyer; and
Have your attorney present during the police interrogation.
If the police officer fails to read your Miranda rights, any statements you make during the police questioning cannot be used as admissible evidence in your criminal case to convict you.
When Are Police Officers Required to Read Your Miranda Rights?
Under federal law, police officers are legally required to give you a Miranda warning when taking you into custody and asking you questions during an interrogation.
You are considered “in custody” when you are not free to leave. Thus, if you are not in custody, the officer is not required to read your Miranda rights.
Many people do not understand when they are actually in police custody, which is why they may feel pressured to answer questions asked by the officers. In order to understand whether or not you are in custody, you should ask the officer, “Am I free to leave?”
When Should I Invoke My Right to Remain Silent?
In most cases, it is in your best interests to cooperate with law enforcement. However, you should not confuse cooperation with incrimination. The police may force you to make incriminating statements, which is why it is important to know when to invoke your right to remain silent.
For example, if the police stop you for a traffic stop, staying silent and refusing to answer the officer’s questions can be very suspicious. In this situation, it may be best to answer the officer’s questions unless your statements can be used as incriminating evidence.
However, if the police officer arrests you and takes you into custody, you should exercise your right to remain silent. In addition to asserting your Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, you should not answer any questions until your lawyer is present during the police questioning.
Stay calm, be polite, and simply state, “I am invoking my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and want to speak with my lawyer.”
Why You Should Explicitly Invoke Your Right to Remain Silent
If you want to invoke your right to remain silent, you must explicitly state that you are asserting your Fifth Amendment right. This was evident from the case Salinas v. Texas, in which the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the prosecution to introduce evidence of the defendant’s silence as evidence of their guilt.
The Supreme Court ruled that the defendant’s refusal to answer questions asked by the police could be used as evidence of their guilt. The prosecution was allowed to use the defendant’s silence as evidence of guilt because the defendant failed to explicitly state that they want to invoke their right to remain silent.
Since the police officers did not hear the defendant assert their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the defendant’s silence during the police interrogation could be used as admissible evidence of their guilt.
The Salinas v. Texas case showed that it is critical to explicitly invoke your right to remain silent when you are taken into custody.
How to Invoke Your Right to Remain Silent the Right Way?
If you have been arrested for a crime in Texas, you should explicitly say you want to exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Verbalizing your right to stay silent when questioned is the right way to avoid self-incrimination.
After the Salinas v. Texas case, the importance of explicitly stating that you want to invoke your right to stay silent cannot be overstated. If you intend to “plead the Fifth” to refuse to answer questions, you must tell the police that you want to invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent as opposed to simply ignoring the officers’ questions.
If you fail to exercise your right against self-incrimination the right way, the police may continue with the questioning. The prosecution may then use your silence as evidence that you admit guilt or have something to hide. Once you explicitly invoke your right to remain silent, the police cannot use your refusal to answer questions as evidence of your guilt.
If the police pressured you into making an incriminating statement or used other illegal tactics after you invoked your Fifth Amendment right, do not hesitate to contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney will be able to exclude any evidence unlawfully obtained by law enforcement during or after your arrest.
Speak with a McLennan County Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been arrested for a criminal offense in Texas, it is critical to exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent to avoid incriminating yourself. You should also invoke your right to legal representation to protect your best interests and freedom.
Having your criminal defense lawyer present during the interrogation can ensure that you do not say anything that could be used against you to convict you.
Do not hesitate to contact a McLennan County criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options and protect your rights following your arrest. Speak with our criminal attorneys at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to get a case review. Call 254-501-4040.