The right to remain silent, often referred to as the "Miranda right," is an important part of criminal law. What most people don’t realize is that the right must be asserted correctly in order for it to take effect. Here, we will look at some basic information regarding the right to remain silent and how you are supposed to invoke the right.
The right to remain silent originally comes from the 5th Amendment. It is also based on the Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona. The right actually has two parts. The first part we have already mentioned: the right to remain silent. The second prong is the right to the presence of an attorney when a suspect is questioned by law enforcement.
Making Use of the Right
Many of those accused of a crime don’t understand that mere silence is not enough to take advantage of the protections afforded by the right. The law requires a suspect to perform an act that is unambiguous. This is why literal silence on behalf of a suspect is not enough. Silence can be interpreted in an ambiguous manner because it does not communicate one way or another.
Although the law requires a clear and unambiguous act to invoke your Miranda rights there is no predefined standard. The best way to invoke the right is to clearly state that your are using your Miranda right, and that you wish to remain silent. You can also invoke the right by stating that you wish to speak to your attorney. A court will uphold your invocation as long as a reasonable law enforcement officer would interpret your statement as doing so.
Stay Away From Conditional Statements
You must make an affirmative statement to use your Miranda rights. Saying that you “might” want to talk to an attorney, or that “maybe” you should remain silent is not enough! These types of statements lack the immediacy required to invoke the right in the present time. In such a scenario, a reasonable police officer could assume that you are willing to talk now and merely reserving the ability to invoke the right in the future. Therefore, police may continue questioning you because they have not heard a clearly defined statement.
After the Right Has Been Invoked
The benefit to properly invoking your Miranda rights is that it brings an end to police interrogation. Your right to remain silent will apply to all police officers in regard to the case at hand. Once a suspect makes a valid assertion that he or she is to remain silent, any statements obtained by police thereafter are not admissible into evidence. An experienced attorney will advise that it is best to assert your rights as soon as you have contact with police officers.
If you have further questions about your rights as a defendant in a criminal case please contact Spencer and Jensen, LLC. Talk to an experienced lawyer who can review your case and provide appropriate advice.