Remaining silent is always your right to use

It doesn't matter what charges you may face, you still have the right to remain silent. Whether police accuse you of shoplifting, driving drunk, drug trafficking or even murder, your rights under the U.S. Constitution are yours to exercise.

One of the most important rights that the founding fathers of the United States gave you is not to incriminate yourself. You do not need to answer anything but basic questions when police ask. They cannot force you to talk, but you do need to say a few words in order to avoid inadvertently waiving your right to remain silent.

How to use your right to remain silent

Simply not talking is not enough to guarantee this right. Rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court require you to make it clear through words rather than actions that you intend to exercise, or invoke, your right not to incriminate yourself. You may find the following tips useful in making it clear that you are not waiving this crucial right:

  • Don't use vague wording such as may, maybe, intend or should. Be direct and use words that police cannot misinterpret.
  • Don't remain silent at one point and then begin answering questions later.
  • Tell officers that you want to remain silent. Again, do not use language that officers could reasonably construe in a different manner.
  • Tell officers that you are exercising your right not to answer any questions.
  • Let officers know that you will not speak without an attorney present.
  • Let officers know that you want to speak with an attorney.

Sometimes, police will send another investigator or officer into the room after you have already invoked your right to remain silent. Do not fall for this. Your right extends to all officials, not just the ones in the room at the time. Once you make it clear that you will not speak with them, officers should immediately stop asking you questions. If that doesn't happen, it could constitute a violation of your Constitutional rights. A judge would not allow prosecutors to admit into evidence anything you say under those circumstances.

Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. Hopefully, you will never need to use the information above, but if you do, that means that you could face charges for one or more criminal offenses. When you invoke your right to remain silent, you may also want to exercise your right to an attorney who can help you reach the best possible resolution to your situation.

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