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The Importance of Your Right to Remain Silent

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”

Many of us are familiar with the saying. It is repeatedly used in films and on television shows. This is known as the Miranda warning or the Miranda rights. It is based on the Fifth Amendment which protects people from being compelled or forced to provide self-incriminating statements or testimony.

Police must read the Miranda warning when two requirements are met: (1) a person is in custody and (2) the person is being interrogated. These two circumstances need to be met at the same time.

Being in custody means you have been placed under arrest. Interrogation means questioning by law enforcement officials which will most likely lead to the person making an incriminating statement, including direct questions related to a specific crime.

If law enforcement fails to read these rights to a person that is under arrest, anything that person says cannot be used as evidence against you in a court of law. Keep in mind, it only means these statements will be suppressed and kept from being introduced into evidence during a court hearing or trial.

One of the biggest misconceptions is: if you are arrested and police do not read your rights, the charges you are facing are automatically dismissed. That is not true. In fact, any physical evidence collected at an alleged crime scene is still considered admissible. Furthermore, whatever you say outside interrogation is also admissible.

Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of ignoring these rights. Rather than staying quiet, they provide officers with as much information and detail as possible in an effort to “tell their side of the story” and clear their name from any wrongdoing. However, when law enforcement suspects you of a criminal offense, their goal is to build a case against you. Police will go so far as to pretend to be on your side or promise to reduce the charges against you, but that is never the case.

It is always important to say nothing or request to speak with your attorney as soon as you are arrested. However, silence can be used against you have not been arrested. Even then, do not voluntarily answer questions from law enforcement other than your name. Invoke your constitutional right to remain silent and request the presence of counsel.

Clearly, state words to the effect of “I invoke my right against self-incrimination and want counsel present during any questioning.” THEN REMAIN SILENT. Law enforcement is supposed to immediately cease questioning. But, if law enforcement authorities continued to ask questions and you answer even one of them, you have waived your right to remain silent.

Invoking your right to remain silent can be beneficial to your defense, helping your lawyer develop an effective case strategy to either have your case dismissed altogether or your penalties reduced. Remember, never respond to police questioning without an attorney present to protect your rights and future.

For more information about your right to remain silent, contact our Denver criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of David L. Owen, Jr., P.C. today.