What exactly is the right to remain silent? The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution addresses this important right.
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
What does it mean that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself?
You have an absolute right to refuse to disclose information when you are being questioned in a criminal investigation.
If you are being questioned by the police, a prosecutor or a law enforcement agent, you should assert your right to remain silent.
The right to remain silent was recognized in English law as early as 1637. Prior to that, American colonists were subject to torture in an effort to extract confessions from individuals accused of capital crimes.
The landmark case Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966) cemented our Fifth Amendment rights. In Miranda the Court held that any statements made by defendants while in police custody before trial will be inadmissible during prosecution unless the police first warn the defendants that they have (1) the right to remain silent, (2) the right to consult an attorney before being questioned by the police, (3) the right to have an attorney present during police questioning, (4) the right to a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford one, and (5) the right to be informed that any statements they do make can and will be used in their prosecution.
Even though Miranda warnings are not a part of the Fifth Amendment’s Self-Incrimination Clause, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that Miranda Rights constitute an essential part of a judicially created buffer zone that is necessary to protect the rights of United States citizens.
If you are under arrest, i.e. not free to leave, confessions, admissions, and other statements you make without being advised of your Miranda Rights can not be used against you if you have been charged with a crime. If you are convicted at trial and the conviction is based on statements you made in custody and you were not informed of your right to remain silent, your conviction may be reversed on appeal unless other evidence supports a guilty verdict.
The right against self-incrimination applies to persons but not corporations. If you have been contacted by the police, a detective or other government official and they are asking questions, you have an absolute right to remain silent. Always consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer before you make any statements to law enforcement. Your failure to remain silent may very well result in you being convicted of a crime.
I have represented thousands of individuals accused of violations of laws in the State of Georgia. If you have been contacted by a police officer, detective or other law enforcement official and they are asking you questions, call me BEFORE you give any statement and I will help you protect your legal rights.