You have likely heard of the Miranda Rights. The most common version that people are aware of is:
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 speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning.
If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you.
The name Miranda Rights comes from the 1966 Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona. In that case, the criminal defendant, Ernesto Miranda, made statements and admissions to police regarding the alleged kidnapping and rape of a mentally-impaired woman. At no time did the police tell Mr. Miranda he had the right not to speak to them. At no time did the police advise Mr. Miranda that he had the right to an attorney.
Since the case of Miranda v. Arizona, the police have been required to read the Miranda Rights—or to “Mirandize”—a criminal suspect anytime they engage in substantive questioning about the commission of a crime.
The first of the Miranda Rights, and the subject of this post, is the right to remain silent.
Under our Constitution, “No person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” Fifth Am. This is the root of the right to remain silent. You do not have to do the police’s work for them. You have the right to make the state prove its case against you, and you do not have to cooperate in its compiling of evidence against you.
We all have a tendency to want to explain things, especially where the police may be involved, and where we may be potentially incriminated. This is a dangerous tendency and one that must be suppressed where police questioning is involved.
It is not rude to exercise your right to remain silent. It is your Constitutional right. Of course, there is a difference between exercising your right to remain silent and being outwardly uncooperative. The police are entitled to know your name. They are entitled to see your identification. And in the interests of not exacerbating a stressful situation, it may be useful to say something along the lines of, “Respectfully, officer, I am exercising my right to remain silent.” And then leave it at that (unless the circumstances are such that you would like a lawyer present – which is covered in Part III of this series).
But if you have been arrested and charged with a crime, it is very important not to go through this process alone. Our experienced team of criminal defense attorneys is ready and willing to help defend you, your rights, and your freedom.