Police Contact?  Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

If you’re the subject of a police investigation, you only need to give investigators your name, address and telephone number.  The law doesn’t require you to provide any information beyond that.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re under arrest or not.  You’re strongly advised to exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself if police officers question you about anything.  Never waive that right.  If you do waive it, you’re only giving police and prosecutors more evidence to use against you when seeking a conviction.

How to Invoke Your Right

Regardless of the fact that you have the right to remain silent, you can’t just remain mute.  That could be used against you.  It doesn’t stop the police from questioning you either.  They know that, so they’re going to continue to try and break you. You must clearly and unquestionably invoke your right to remain silent.  In a perfect world, police are required to stop questioning you after you invoke your right to remain silent.  Police are hardly perfect though, and they might continue to interrogate you anyway in efforts to get you to waive your right.  If that happens, continue to invoke your right to remain silent as often as you need to.

What’s Clear and Unquestionable?

The clearest and most unquestionable way for to invoke your right to remain silent is to simply say that you wish to invoke or exercise it. Police officers will lie to you, distort facts or otherwise be deceptive in questioning you.  It’s all perfectly legal for them to do that in order to obtain information or a confession.  The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that the right to remain silent  is sufficiently invoked if under the circumstances, a reasonable police officer understands what you are saying.  Don’t say “I think I want to remain silent,” or “Maybe I shouldn’t answer any questions.”    Those aren’t clear and unequivocal statements.  Just saying “I want to remain silent” has been held to be sufficiently clear.

Always remember that the police officer who is trying to interrogate you isn’t there to help you.  He or she wants to make an arrest.  Even if the suspect isn’t you, it might be somebody close to you.  By invoking your right to remain silent, you’re preserving valuable defenses that you might otherwise waive.  After invoking that right, invoke your Fifth Amendment right to an attorney too.

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