The Right to Remain Silent and Why You Should Exercise It

Published 05/06/16 by Admin

Whether in television, movies, or real life, at one point or another you’ve likely heard the phrase “You have the right to remain silent.” Many people are familiar with the line, but how often do the individuals it is directed at invoke this right? Not often enough. This blog will help you understand exactly what it means when you have the right to remain silent, and why it can be a good idea to exercise that right.

Take a moment and imagine that you are in a situation where police are involved. In a worst case scenario, you may find yourself being arrested, and before you call your lawyer (which you should always do when you are involved in a legal situation) you should have been read what is commonly known as a “Miranda Warning” or your “Miranda Rights”.

In Ohio, this Miranda Warning is essentially the same as it is throughout the rest of the United States:

“You have the right to remain silent.” – Silence does not mean that a person is guilty. Whether you are innocent or guilty, everyone has the same fundamental rights under the Miranda Warning, and those rights should be exercised. In the heat of the moment, in a situation with police officers, a person may say something that they don’t mean or even something that they shouldn’t say in the presence of those police officers. By exercising your right to remain silent, you are making a wise decision to protect yourself from a misunderstanding or misinterpretation. Silence can be an effective tool a person can use to keep from incriminating themselves. This is important because…

“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” – When they say “anything”, they mean anything. The last thing you want is for something that you said, that you may not even remember saying or may not even be true, to be used against you in legal proceeding. Remember…

“You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have him present with you while you are being questioned.” – This is another fundamental right you have and one you should exercise at any time if you find yourself in a situation involving the police. Being questioned by a police officer can sometimes be a confusing situation or extensive process, which can be a tactical advantage for the purpose of breaking a suspect down or getting the information they are seeking or require to move forward in an investigation. By having your attorney present, you help prevent yourself from saying something that could be incriminating or detrimental to your case. Instead, let your lawyer do his job and represent you. However…

“If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning if you wish.” – Whether or not you can afford to hire legal representation shouldn’t matter, and it doesn’t. If you don’t have the financial stability to afford an attorney, the courts are required to appoint an attorney to help you and represent you. All you have to do is ask.

“You can decide at any time to exercise these rights and not answer any questions or make any statements.” – This is the moral of the story; the take-away. While you should exercise your right to remain silent immediately, you don’t have to. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked sections of the Miranda Warning. As part of the fundamental right to remain silent, you can choose to exercise this right at any time throughout the course of police questioning. You can choose to be cooperative, but if you don’t like the way the questioning is going, you can invoke your rights at any time; both the right to remain silent, and the right to have an attorney present.

Last, but certainly not least, is the waiver of your Miranda Rights. “Do you understand each of these rights I have explained to you? Having these rights in mind, do you wish to talk to us now?”

Keeping what you have learned from this blog in mind, your answer to this simple waiver should be just as simple: “No. I would like to speak to my attorney.” Because you have the right to remain silent, and that right should always be exercised.