The moment the police place you in handcuffs and begin reciting the famous words “You have the right to remain silent,” you are officially in police custody. No matter what the circumstances are, it can be a scary moment. But the way you behave – and the things you say – immediately after your arrest can have a big impact on how your defense goes. This is why it is essential that you learn which rights you have, and how to invoke them.
The right to remain silent
Many people mistakenly assume that the right to remain silent means that you can refuse to say anything while the police interrogate you. However, your constitutional right to remain silent, granted by the Fifth Amendment, is broader than that.
If you successfully invoke your right to remain silent, the police must stop interrogating you. It is your legal way of terminating any police questioning for a reasonable amount of time. After enough time has passed, they can re-initiate questioning, but you can always invoke this right again.
The important thing to note about this right is that you must invoke it explicitly in order for it to be effective. This means that, as long as you simply remain silent, the police can continue to question you. You must clearly and unambiguously state that you are invoking your right to remain silent in order to terminate the interrogation.
The right to an attorney
The Sixth Amendment grants you the right to be represented by an attorney, and it works the same way. If you want to invoke this right, you must do so clearly and specifically.
If you state something vague such as “maybe I should have an attorney” or “I think I should probably call an attorney,” the police are not obligated to cease questioning or to grant you an attorney. You must explicitly state “I am invoking my right to an attorney” in order for this right to kick in. One you state that, the police cannot question you further until your attorney arrives.
The Constitution was established to give us methods of enforcing our rights. It’s important to know how to invoke and use those rights in your defense. The criminal justice system is complex, and the process can be confusing. Experienced criminal defense attorneys such as those at Kammen & Moudy can help you to navigate the process and protect your rights.