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Reasons Why You Should Exercise Your Right To Be Silent

Man sitting at table across from police investigator, holding up his hands in refusal; exercising his right to remain silent while waiting for an attorney.

One essential component of the American judicial system is the right to remain silent. This important right, guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and binding throughout all 50 states, prohibits any government official or agency from forcing individuals to testify against themselves in court or during encounters with law enforcement. Find out what this right means for you, when you can use it, and what the law says about your right to be silent. If you would like to learn more, contact the New Hampshire criminal defense attorneys at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC, by calling (603) 707-4800.

Why Is It Important To Exercise Our Right To Remain Silent?

The right to silence secured by the United States Constitution’s Fifth Amendment supports a variety of critical legal protections, ranging from guaranteeing due process to safeguarding your innocence. Among these vital justifications are:

Assuming Innocence

The assumption of innocence, unless proven guilty, forms a fundamental part of the United States legal system. This foundational concept is reinforced by the accused’s right to silence. With this right, people are able to avoid being forced to testify against themselves. As well as protecting accused individuals from being required to testify against themselves in court, the right to silence also applies to individuals placed under arrest, who furthermore have the right to have legal counsel present (under the Sixth Amendment) when they are questioned. While waiting for an attorney is not a legal requirement, it is often advisable, as criminal defense attorneys can often provide advice to help their clients avoid unintentional self-incrimination. 

The presumption of innocence continues to be a central and essential idea that guides the entire legal system. This presumption is a prerequisite for the burden of proof placed on the prosecution to establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. People who remain silent protect both this assumption and the underlying idea that a person accused of a crime is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Coercion Protection

The right to be silent functions as a barrier against abusive or forceful questioning methods. Law enforcement personnel may employ various strategies to obtain information. By exercising their Fifth Amendment rights, people can protect themselves against harassment and undue pressure.

When someone is being questioned while in police custody, they are entitled to a Miranda warning that includes explicit notification of the right to silence during a custodial interrogation. The well-rehearsed Miranda recitation familiar from police procedurals, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” highlights how important this right is in shielding people from coercive measures. The right to have an attorney present during questioning provides an additional bulwark by ensuring that arrested persons can, if they so choose, undergo questioning with the advice and support of a trained legal professional.

Due Process Assurance

A key component of justice is due process. This legal principle helps to ensure that all people are treated equally before the law and that their rights are always upheld. Exercising the right to remain silent works in tandem with the due process requirements to protect individuals against erroneous convictions.

Avoiding Misstatements

In some situations, individuals might be inclined to provide inaccurate information or offer false admissions. Emotional turmoil, stress, or confusion can lead to the generation of erroneous statements. The right to remain silent affords individuals the opportunity to: 

  • Regain their composure
  • Consult with legal counsel

With the benefit of time for reflection and the chance to consult with an attorney if desired, when the timing is right the individual can deliver truthful statements based on sound legal reasoning. The potential consequences of any inaccuracies can lead to wrongful convictions, so exercising the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent is a prudent choice that helps to ensure the integrity of the legal process for all involved.

Can I Exercise My Right To Remain Silent?

Anyone who might be questioned by law enforcement or during legal processes is entitled to this protection, although the application of the Fifth Amendment may look somewhat different in civil vs. criminal courts. The right to remain silent can be used during:

Law Enforcement Interactions

When dealing with law enforcement, anyone in the United States has the right to remain silent. This right extends to everyone, no matter their citizenship status. Anyone can choose not to answer questions. Additionally, the individual can request legal representation before participating in any discussions.

The right to remain silent applies to a wide range of interactions with law enforcement, such as:

  • Routine traffic stops
  • Investigation questioning
  • Custodial interrogations

Legal Proceedings

During proceedings in a criminal court, individuals also retain the right to remain silent. This right extends to defendants, witnesses, and even victims. While the text of the Constitution Annotated does provide for some exceptions, such as during a Grand Jury hearing, an individual can exercise the right to remain silent in court when asked potentially self-incriminating questions.

Defendants often exercise their Fifth Amendment rights when they are on trial. Many times, this allows them to avoid making statements that may harm their case. Witnesses and victims may also remain silent. 

Civil Cases

In civil cases, the rules involving remaining silent are often different. Civil cases often involve disputes between individuals, entities, or parties, focusing on:

  • Contractual disputes
  • personal injury claims
  • Family law matters

In these cases, the right to remain silent may not apply in the same way as it does in criminal proceedings. Individuals involved in civil cases should consult with an attorney to understand their rights and responsibilities in these situations. If you would like to learn more about the right to be silent, contact Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC, today.

What Right Gives You the Right To Remain Silent?

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution expressly guarantees the right to remain silent. Numerous court cases have demonstrated this amendment’s importance in the American legal system. This right has often been tested and sustained by the courts. The Fifth Amendment emphasizes that no one may be coerced into testifying against themselves in a criminal prosecution. 

The well-known warning often recited in television crime dramas reflects the legal premise established in the Miranda v. Arizona case. Before being questioned while in custody, people must be made aware of their right to silence, according to the United States Courts. These “Miranda” warnings help people know that they have the right to use their right against self-incrimination at any moment.

Protect Your Rights With Help From a New Hampshire Criminal Defense Attorney

The right to be silent protects individuals against self-incrimination and upholds their Constitutional rights. By preserving the presumption of innocence, protecting against coercion, and preventing misstatements, this right plays a role in maintaining fairness and integrity within the legal process. To learn more about your legal rights or request legal representation before questioning, schedule a consultation with Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC, by calling (603) 707-4800.

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About the Attorney
Jesse Friedman

Jesse has personally represented thousands of clients throughout the State - from juvenile delinquency offenses through homicides. He has extensive trial and litigation experience and has obtained favorable outcomes for thousands of clients throughout the years.

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