While many people are aware that they have the general right to remain silent, lots of individuals are fearful of actually doing it. They fear that silence makes them appear more guilty than answering police questions would. Let’s discuss whether or not using your right to remain silent can hurt you in criminal proceedings.
Silence as Evidence of Guilt
In short, yes, prosecutors may be able to point to a suspect’s silence as a sign of guilt.
This is true in cases when:
- The suspect is not in police custody (i.e., at a traffic stop)
- The suspect does answer police questions
- The suspect doesn’t speak, but doesn’t say they are using the right to remain silent
That last point may come as a shock to you. In order to use your right to remain silent, you must explicitly state you’re using your right to remain silent?
Invoking Your Rights
When you are stopped by police, you must clearly state “I am using my right to remain silent,” in order to prevent prosecutors from using your silence against you. The police are not required to warn you about this - it is something you must know before your interaction. Many argue about how fair this is, as most citizens are unaware of this small legal distinction.
Why You Should Use Your Right to Remain Silent
As stated earlier, many people fear that using their right to remain silent will lead to further legal trouble. However, choosing to speak and share information can be even worse.
Whether you’re guilty or innocent, here’s why you should remain silent:
- Protection from self-incrimination
- Less chance for misconstrued statements
- Less evidence for the police to give the prosecutors
- Wait until you consult with an attorney
Criminal defense attorneys know what the police and prosecutors are looking for in order to find you guilty of a criminal offense. You should always consult with a defense lawyer before providing any information in a criminal case. You need someone on your side, and a defense attorney will be able to protect and guide you through your case.
Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense
Always exercise your right to stay silent and your right to an attorney. Whether you are being charged with a misdemeanor, felony, or federal offense, our attorneys at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. are here to help. To discuss your case, call us at (954) 840-8713.