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Remember, you always have the right to remain silent

As a U.S. citizen, you have the right – guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution – not to make any incriminating statements. Over the years, this has become known as “your right to remain silent.”

This is one of the “Miranda Rights” that appear so often on television police shows. Police have the responsibility to tell you of your Fifth Amendment rights before you are questioned or risk having everything they learned and subsequent actions thrown out of court.

Your Miranda Rights

In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the case Miranda v Arizona that every person taken into custody must be informed of their Fifth Amendment rights:

  • You can remain silent
  • Anything you say will be used against you in court
  • You can have an attorney present
  • If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided

If law enforcement fails to “Mirandize” you, any statement you make or information they use as a result of your interrogation will likely be thrown out of court.

When you state your desire to remain silent, all interrogation must stop. If interrogation continues, police have violated your Miranda rights and that can have repercussions in court.

What to do to exercise your right

Like invoking your right to an attorney, you have to specifically invoke your right to remain silent. Simply staying silent does not stop an interrogation. Similarly, you can waive the right to be silent simply by talking after you have been Mirandized. If you talk after you have signaled that you understand your Fifth Amendment rights, then you have waived your right to remain silent.

If you want to keep your rights, you need to state them. The Supreme Court has provided a test for police and judges to follow: The right to remain silent is active if a reasonable officer under the circumstances would understand the request. Similarly, police don’t need to follow ambiguous statements: You need to state your desire to remain silent and your desire to speak to an attorney plainly and clearly.

After years of watching television police deliver the Miranda warning and the millions of dramatic ways that TV crooks have responded, it’s easy to become jaded to being Mirandized. But your Fifth Amendment rights belong to you and are there to help you from being mistreated by law enforcement and the judicial system. You need to do your part and understand how to use them.

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Doughty Law Firm, LLC
6650 Rivers Ave
North Charleston, SC 29406

Phone: 843-501-9342
Fax: 843-576-5401
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