Everyone knows that when they are detained or arrested by police officers for questioning that they have “The right to remain silent”. Thanks to shows like “Law and Order” almost everyone who has a TV knows these infamous 5 words of your “Miranda Rights”. Your Miranda Rights are supposed to be read to you while or shortly after you are arrested or detained. But is your right to remain silent permanent? The answer may surprise you; your right to remain silent is NOT permanent. It can be waived and most people do it unknowingly.
The legal dramas on the air always show intense, if not threatening, interrogation sequences. You know what I am talking about, the whole good cop, bad cop routine in order to trap the suspect into saying something incriminating. In the end the person sobs and confesses or sobs and rats someone else out. While these heightened dramatics surely make the show more interesting, it also proves my point that you can waive your right to be silent. If you are in custody, as in the police have you in handcuffs or it is very clear that you cannot leave the police station, 9 times out of 10 you will have been properly given your Miranda rights. They are your right to remain silent, anything you say can be used against you, you have the right to an attorney, and if you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed to you. After they read you these rights, the police can then use anything you say against you in court. If you exercise these rights only you can waive them. (picture of mouth taken by Phil Dragash)
Ok you are saying, that makes sense, I just exercise my right to be silent by not answering any of their questions and requesting the presence of an attorney, that is easy! Yes it is that easy but you have to remember one thing, after you stay silent or request an attorney present, then STAY silent. All to often people unknowingly waive their right to be silent by simply asking a question about the incident(s) pertaining to their arrest or detainment. If you ask such a question, you will have been deemed to have WAIVED your right to be silent and such question you have asked or statement you made may be used against you in court. It is just best to stay quiet until you have an attorney present.
Your “Law and Orders” of the world always show the officers questioning the suspect even after they have exercised their right to be silent and have requested and attorney. Did you know that if you remain silent or request an attorney that the police have to immediately stop the interrogation? That is a fun fact to know because many police will still try to ask you questions after you have requested your attorney present. Don’t give in to their constant harassment, stay quiet until your attorney has arrived. If they do stop the questioning, anything you say to them about the incident(s) will be signified as a waiver of your right to have an attorney present and the questioning will pick up again. Do yourself a huge favor and do not initiate any conversation with the officers if they have stopped their interrogation. Also inn Massachusetts the police have to inform you of when your attorney arrives. After that it is up to you whether you want to speak to the attorney (yes you most certainly do) or decline the assistance.
In the words of Walter Bagehot “An inability to stay quiet is one of the conspicuous failings of mankind.” Be smart and informed, don’t say anything until your attorney is present.
Article written by Andrew Kussmaul