For whatever reason, there may come a time when you come into contact with law enforcement. After some initial questioning and investigation, an officer may place you under arrest. At the very least, movies and television taught you that the officer must read you your Miranda Rights.
The problem is that even as the officer reads your rights to you, he or she more than likely will not take the time to explain to you what that really means. Simply staying quiet and not talking is not enough to invoke your right to remain silent.
Know your rights
Did you know that Miranda Rights didn't exist until 1966? Sure, you have had the right to remain silent and to representation by counsel since the Constitution became the law of the land, but law enforcement officials were not required to remind you of them or adhere to them until the United States Supreme Court said so in 1966.
You also need to know that officers are only required to advise you of your Miranda Rights once an officer formally detains you (i.e. arrests you). Any statements you make prior to that point may not fall under the Miranda protection.
Invoking the right to remain silent
Indiviudals can invoke the right to remain silent by making a clear statement to officers conveying a desire to invoke this right. Examples of such statements include saying that:
- You wish to remain silent.
- You desire to exercise your right to remain silent.
- You wish to speak to an attorney before talking to police.
- You wish to speak only to an attorney.
If you do not make your intent clear, you may have not formally invoked your right to remain silent. Using ambiguous language such as "maybe" or "you plan to" does not solidify your intent not to talk to law enforcement.
After you invoke your right, police generally cannot question you further. If officers continue to ask questions, they may be violating your rights.
Invoking your right to an attorney
If you face criminal charges, it would probably be in your best interests to take advantage of all of your Constitutional rights. The criminal justice system is complex, and you may have options you are unaware of unless you have help.