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To Exercise Your Right to Be Silent, Speak Up

December 30, 2017


Thanks to television crime and legal shows, nearly everyone recognizes the phrase “you have the right to remain silent….” This right (along with the right to a lawyer during questioning) are known as the “Miranda rights,” after the 1966 Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona. Your Miranda rights apply any time the police question you while you are “in custody,” or are not free simply to walk away.

As a result of their familiarity with the Miranda warnings, many people assume that if they have the right to remain silent, they should exercise it by remaining silent. In any interaction with police, then, a person may decide not to say anything, no matter what police say to them.

However, simply not saying anything to police may not be enough to protect your right to remain silent. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Berghuis v. Thompkins that a defendant who stayed quiet for three hours, then gave a statement, had not invoked his right to remain silent for that three hours. His statement could be used against him in court.

Even if you are not under arrest or have not been read your Miranda rights, you may need to speak up in order to invoke your right to remain silent. In Salinas v. Texas, the defendant, Salinas, had refused to answer a police officer’s question before he was arrested or read his Miranda rights. The Supreme Court held that the prosecutor could use this silence against Salinas in court, because even though Salinas had a right to remain silent, he had not told police that he wanted to invoke that right.

What should you say to invoke your right to remain silent? The Supreme Court didn’t give specific words to say, but they did say that a person has to make it clear that they are invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Criminal laws are complex. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you understand the charges you face and build a strong argument in your favor. To learn more, contact New Jersey criminal defense attorney Michele Finizio today by calling 856-888-9059.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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