Invoking your right to remain silent

If you are a fan of television police dramas or true-crime podcasts, you may be able to recite the Miranda warning from memory. This advisement, mandated by a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court decision, begins with your right to remain silent. If you choose to talk despite the warning, though, authorities may use your statements against you. 

While you may fully understand your constitutional right not to incriminate yourself, invoking your right to remain silent may be difficult. After all, police interrogators receive exhaustive training on eliciting information from criminal suspects and others. Officers also have badges and carry guns, which may make them seem intimidating. 

Understanding the risk  

When officers investigate a crime, they collect evidence. While evidence comes in a variety of forms, a suspect’s words are often extremely valuable. Therefore, you must realize that investigators are listening carefully to everything you say. Even seemingly harmless statements may come back to haunt you. Furthermore, you may end up confessing to a crime that you did not commit. Put simply, it is important to say as little as possible. 

Using precise words  

Certainly, if you say nothing, officers cannot use your statements against you. If you only remain silent, though, detectives and others may continue to question you. Unfortunately, you may eventually break down and make incriminating statements. During police questioning, you should use precise words that make your intentions clear. Telling the questioner that you are exercising your right to remain silent is an effective approach. 

Asking for an attorney  

If you are going through a custodial interrogation, you have a right to have an attorney present for police questioning. When you ask to consult with one, police officers must immediately stop the interrogation. As such, if you feel uncomfortable verbally asserting your right to remain silent, requesting a lawyer accomplishes the same objective. 

If law enforcement officials suspect that you have committed a crime, you may face a variety of consequences. You do not, however, want to make the situation worse. By knowing how to invoke your right to remain silent, you decrease your chances of incriminating yourself.