Anyone who has watched a police drama on television or the big screen is familiar with the right to remain silent” that we all have in the United States. Unfortunately, Hollywood does not always do a good job of explaining when that right kicks in and what the limits of that right are. If you ever find yourself part of a police investigation, or placed under arrest, you need to have an accurate understanding of all your rights. With that in mind, a Smyrna criminal lawyer explains what you need to know about your right to remain silent.
Your Constitutional Right to Remain Silent
In the United States, we operate under a federalist form of government. That means we have a strong central government (the federal government) that is prevented from becoming too strong by a number of individual semi-autonomous governments (the state governments). It also means that the U.S. Constitution remains the highest legal authority in the land. Although individual states may make their own laws, a law cannot violate or impinge on your Constitutional rights. Your right to remain silent is found in the broader right against self-incrimination found in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which reads as follows:
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” (Emphasis added)
What Does Your Right to Remain Silent Mean in the Real World?
Unlike some of your other rights, your right to remain silent is a fairly straight-forward right. Beyond providing a law enforcement officer with your identity, your right to remain silent means just that – you do not have to answer questions nor speak to the police if you do not want to do so. Moreover, you can invoke your 5th Amendment right at any point in an investigation or trial. For example, if you originally agree to answer questions from a police officer but soon begin to feel uncomfortable doing so, you may invoke your right to remain silent at that time. If you also request an attorney at that time, a police officer is required to stop questioning you until you have an attorney present. If your right to remain silent was violated by the police, anything you said following that violation will be inadmissible at trial.
What about Miranda Warnings?
A common area of confusion is found in the Miranda warnings requirement. Named for the case that established the need for a law enforcement officer to provide the warnings, your Miranda rights only attach when you are in custody. In other words, the police are only required to read you your rights if you are considered to be in custody, and even then, only if they plan to question you. If, for example, the police stop you and ask if they can “talk” to you, no Miranda warning is required. Your right to remain silent still exists; however, the police officer is not required to tell you it exists at that point. Furthermore, if you are clearly under arrest, but the police have no intention of questioning you, Miranda warnings are not required. If the police do question you while you are in custody and without giving you your Miranda warnings, anything you say may not be admissible in court.
If you are currently facing criminal charges or you are the target of a police investigation in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Smyrna criminal lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.
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