The right to remain silent is one of the oldest and most powerful rights given to every citizen of the United States who could be facing potential criminal liability. This right means that, at any time, you have the absolute right not to talk to law enforcement. This silence is worth a thousand words.
“But I’ll look guilty!” most people might say. Even if an officer thinks you’re guilty remaining silent will almost always give law enforcement less ammunition to use against you. This, in turn, will help protect you if serious charges come down the road later. For example, if you tell a law enforcement officer “I did it” that officer will, without hesitation, arrest you for “doing it.” Then, that officer will go into court and testify that you said: “I did it.” However, if you tell the officer that you are asserting your “right to remain silent” instead of saying “I did it” this scenario will likely be different: you may still get arrested but, later in court, that officer cannot testify that you said: “I did it.” In fact, if you tell an officer that you’d like to assert your “right to remain silent” that officer likely can’t even testify that you refused to talk to him or her.
Another common response to the right to remain silent is: “I’m not stupid … I’ll talk them in circles.” Even if you can, this is almost always not your best option. Everyone knows the part of Miranda warnings that say “… anything you say can and will be used against you …” This is because law enforcement can and will use anything you say against you! It doesn’t matter what you say: it will be shown to a judge or jury so that a prosecutor six months or a year later can send you to jail or prison.
This is not to say that you can’t be found guilty if you assert your right to remain silent. Only that if stay silent the prosecution will usually have less ammunition to work with. So if you ever hear the words: “You have the right to remain silent …” Carefully consider exercising it. Or better yet, assert your right and then contact one of our skilled Bay Area Criminal Defense Attorneys so we can help you figure out whether talking to law enforcement is in your best interest.