Your Right to Remain Silent – And How To Use It

man making 'shh' face with pointer finger in front of mouth

Every citizen should be knowledgeable about their Fifth Amendment rights. Our team at Levine & Levine Attorneys at Law has put together this guide to help you understand what your rights are when interacting with the police, as well as some tips for how to comfortably and correctly invoke your rights.

The Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment grants citizens the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions in order to avoid self-incrimination.

The Fifth Amendment also grants citizens:

  • The right to a jury trial
  • Protection from double jeopardy
  • The right to a fair trial
  • Protection from the government taking their property without fair compensation

When Is The Right To Remain Silent Applicable?

You may be wondering, do you always have the right to remain silent? Yes! You have the right to remain silent in all interactions with the police - not just after an arrest. You can and should always use your right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination.

For example, imagine you are pulled over for suspected OWI. The officer may start asking you questions. You should invoke your right to remain silent in this instance, rather than admit to any criminal activity.

Do The Police Have To Tell Me About My Fifth Amendment Right To Silence?

It depends. The police are required to read the Miranda Warning in some instances. This is the warning that informs citizens of their rights, one of which is the right to remain silent. However, when the police are required to read this warning is not as straightforward.

The police are only required to read the Miranda Warning to individuals who are arrested, brought into police custody, and subject to questioning in an interrogation. However, citizens should know that they have the right to remain silent even before the police officers tell them they do.

Using Your Right to Remain Silent

At Levine & Levine Attorneys at Law, we want all Americans to be empowered to use their right to remain silent. There are a few things you should know about using this right.

One common misconception that people have is that you can simply remain silent and that is the same as using your Fifth Amendment right. However, this is not the case. If you simply do not respond to police questions, this can be used as a show of guilt in court. It is important to explicitly invoke your right to remain silent, as this makes it so your silence cannot be used against you.

If you are choosing to refrain from answering police questions, you may state:

  • “I am invoking my right to remain silent.”
  • “I am exercising my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.”
  • “I plead the Fifth.”
  • “I am using my right to remain silent until I can speak with an attorney.”

After making one of these statements, the police should stop further questioning and withdraw.

You may be nervous to be seen as uncooperative for not answering questions. However, you should be comfortable with using your right to remain silent, as you are legally allowed to do so.

What If I Don’t Use My Right To Stay Silent?

If you don’t know about your right to remain silent, or actively choose not to use it, it can lead to trouble in the future. Whatever you tell police officers during traffic stops or interrogations can be brought up later in court. By self-incriminating, you admit to wrongdoing and accept at least some fault for a criminal action. This can be used against you and ultimately lead to a conviction.

Once you explicitly admit to committing a crime, it can be challenging to combat this later during a trial. Always use your right to remain silent.

Kalamazoo Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you were recently charged with a criminal offense in Kalamazoo or surrounding areas, contact our team at Levine & Levine Attorneys at Law. We have successfully handled a wide variety of charges, including OWI, drug offenses, sex crimes, white-collar crimes, and more. Learn more about how we can help you today during an initial case consultation; click here to request an appointment.