You know that you have the right to remain silent in the face of questioning by law enforcement. You may not know, however, that you have to affirmatively assert this right, or risk losing (or “waiving”) it. In other words, you must speak up and make known your choice to remain silent.
After an Arrest
If you are arrested, you are going to be interrogated. The point of this interrogation is to gather information for the prosecutor to use against you, and maybe even get you to confess. The interrogating officer might offer to drop certain charges or promise to go easy on you or get you a better deal if you just tell him what he wants to hear. Don't believe it. In general, if the police had sufficient evidence against you to go forward with the case and obtain a conviction, they wouldn't be offering you a deal.
Moreover, the police officer sitting across from you in the interrogation room has no real power to cut you a deal or drop the charges. Although the police can make recommendations, the prosecutor determines (a) whether the government will offer you a plea bargain and (b) what the terms of that bargain will be. Accordingly, the smartest thing you can do is to assert your right to remain silent.
Silence – even prolonged silence – is not enough to invoke this right. You must speak up and unambiguously announce that (a) you are not going to speak to the officers, and (b) you want a lawyer. Say, for example, “I wish to remain silent. I will not answer any questions. I want to speak to a lawyer.”
Once you have invoked your rights, stop talking. Your choice to remain silent cannot be used against you at trial, but any statements you make can be. Even “self-serving” statements almost always will hurt you at trial.
We Can Help
It is not easy to stand up to law enforcement and assert your rights. An experienced criminal defense attorney can shield you from overreaching by the government and greatly improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome to your case.
We are available to help if you need us. Please don't hesitate to call.