Movies and television shows have made all of us aware that we have a right to remain silent if we’re placed under arrest. But have you ever stopped to think about what this right really means? Can you really just refuse to say anything to the police?
You have to assert your rights proactively
Upon arrest, police officers should inform you of your Miranda rights, specifically your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. The police will ask you if you understand these rights. Just because you’re informed of your rights and indicate that you understand them doesn’t mean that they automatically take effect.
Police can continue to interrogate you, even if you refuse to answer their initial questions by not saying anything at all. While it’s true that the police must show that you explicitly waived your rights, showing that you made voluntary statements without proactively asserting your right to remain silent is usually enough to have your statements entered into evidence.
Make sure there’s no room for ambiguity
If you intend to assert your right to remain silent, you need to do so explicitly. Telling the police flat out, “I’m asserting my right to remain silent,” is the best way to make your intentions clear. Hemming and hawing or telling the police you’re unsure if you should be talking to them will generally be considered ambiguous, and any statements you make may be used against you.
Remember, your rights are there to protect you
Asserting your right to remain silent is not an admission of guilt. It’s probably best to protect yourself, even if you’re innocent of what the police are claiming. Don’t forget, you also have the right to an attorney. Getting legal advice before volunteering information is usually the wisest move.