The Importance of Your Right to Remain Silent

shutterstock_51704797-1000-ffccccccWhite-3333-0.20.3-1Your right to remain silent comes from the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is why it’s called pleading or taking the Fifth. The amendment actually says that the accused shall not “…be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,” and is often referred to the right to be free from self-incrimination. There are some other important rights that apply to criminal cases listed in the Fifth Amendment, including:

  • The right to a speedy trial
  • A prohibition against double jeopardy
  • The federal due process clause, which prohibits the federal government from depriving a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

Because of the United States Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, police are now required to advise you of this right, or risk having any of your statements not be permitted in court. This has led to the familiar Miranda warnings that you see on television shows like Law and Order: “You have the right to remain silent…”

As a Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer, I caution people not to speak to the police without an attorney present, even if you are not under arrest. However, since people are now savvier than ever about their right to remain silent, police sometimes use tricky techniques to obtain the information they need.

Recently, police discovered some critical information in an investigation through monitored jail conversations. In this case, a woman is accused of committing a homicide to silence a witness against her boyfriend. “Police reviewed jail calls, and discovered [she] spoke with her boyfriend several hours before the shooting, and the boyfriend said ‘something needed to be done about a male from the projects and expressed concern about that person speaking to the police.'” You should assume that all phone conversations from jail are monitored and recorded. Don’t say anything on the phone that you wouldn’t say directly to a police officer.

The same rule applies to your cellmate and other inmates. Police can pose as criminals or can offer deals to those in jail in return for testimony given against you in court. If you’re accused of a crime, be careful what you say and to whom you say it.

Finally, keep in mind that police are permitted to lie to you in order to get information. Just because they say they have evidence or a witness doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s a way to put pressure on you to reveal information or confess.

Just because you’ve made a confession doesn’t mean your case is over, however. If you’re in need of zealous representation in a criminal case, contact us for representation.