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When silence doesn’t speak volumes: Your right not to speak

Everyone who’s ever watched television or movies knows that they have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. But have you ever thought about how to assert these rights?

You probably know that you can ask to speak with an attorney. However, keeping your mouth shut should signal your intent to exercise your right to remain silent, correct? Surprisingly, this is not the case. To assert your right to silence, you have to speak up.

Make your intentions clear

The right to remain silent is part of the Miranda rights, which should be given to every person who is placed under arrest. The right is designed to prevent accused criminals from implicating themselves. However, you must take explicit steps to inform the police of your intention to exercise this right. Be sure to make your intentions clear. Tell them, “I’m exercising my right to remain silent,” or, “I’m not speaking until I’ve spoken with my attorney.”

If all you do is sit in silence, the police can question you repeatedly. Eventually, most people will break down and start talking. If you make it clear that you’re asserting your rights, the police must stop interrogating you.

It’s important to avoid ambiguous statements. Saying things like, “I’m not sure I should be talking to you,” are not enough to invoke your rights.

Protect yourself

We tend to want to explain our actions. However, doing so as part of police questioning is only likely to hurt your case. Talking yourself out of trouble probably isn’t going to happen. Talking yourself into trouble is a genuine possibility.


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