Anyone who watches television has witnessed actors portraying police officers reading Miranda Rights to criminals and innocent bystanders as they’re arrested for allegedly committing a crime. If you watch enough television, you might even find yourself muttering the beginning part of the Miranda Rights. These are basic rights offered to all people upon their arrest, and they relay to you the information you have the right to remain silent because anything you say can be used against you in court. This drives many people to speak nothing without the presence of an attorney in their arrest case, which seems like the right thing to do. What happens if you choose to say nothing and remain silent? Can that be used against you?
Why Can Silence be Used Against Me?
No. Your silence cannot be used against you. It’s far better to stay silent than to deny or admit to a crime. Saying nothing leaves police officers with nothing to use against you other than to tell a court of law you said nothing to them until your attorney was present. This is your right, and there is nothing they can use about your silence to help their case. Your silence is noted, but remaining quiet in a situation such as this is neither a denial or admission of guilt or innocence. Always remain silent until you have the opportunity to contact an attorney and have your case heard.
When your case is taken to a courtroom to be heard in front of a jury, the judge on the case is legally obligated to inform the jury your silence on the matter cannot be used for or against you when your case is heard. If you choose to stay silent as you are rightfully entitled to do, you are not causing yourself any harm.
Why Remain Silent?
Your right to remain silent is your right to avoid self-incrimination. You might not think anything you say is incriminating, but sometimes the way police officers or interrogators phrase questions is designed to trick you into saying something you might not want to say. The only thing to say to police when you are questioned or when you are under arrest is your attorney advised you to say nothing without him or her present.
Your attorney is present to help you say nothing incriminating. Even things you don’t view as incriminating could be. You don’t know what officers know, what evidence they already have, or how they are trying to get you to confess to something you might not even be aware of. The presence of an attorney means all questions are vetted by the attorney and you are then encouraged to answer them as the attorney grants you permission. This is the best way to ensure you say nothing that can be used against you.
For example, if you are arrested for physical assault you did not commit, saying you were mad at the person accusing you of assault but that you didn’t touch them is not so much an admission of innocence as it is a validation you were angry and had the motive. This is why saying nothing is the best course of action. You and your attorney will discuss the questions and situation, and you will come up with the best responses together. There is no reason for you to speak until you’ve contacted an attorney.
If you are arrested and charged with any crimes, it’s time to call an attorney. Your job is to make sure the attorney is able to help your case, and you can do that by saying nothing. Those who are unfamiliar with the law want to help and show police officers they didn’t do anything wrong and while that’s commendable, it’s not the best course of action. Speak to an attorney to find out what you should say, what you should do, and how you should exercise the rights given to you during your arrest. There are many rights and statements given during the time a person is arrested, and it’s not always easy to understand precisely what they mean if you have little to no experience with the law.