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Why does your right to remain silent matter after an arrest?

| Sep 9, 2020 | Criminal Defense

When the police decide to question someone who is already in their custody, they will typically recite the Miranda Warning to advise that individual of their civil rights during police questioning. The first and often ignored protection is the right to remain silent.

No matter how long officers keep you in questioning, no matter how insistent they are that they need your cooperation and no matter how certain you are that your answers might exonerate you, you have no obligation to provide them with information during questioning after an arrest.

Asserting this right often requires tenacity and bravery because officers will try to convince you that talking to them now might make things easier for you in the future. However, it is often the opposite that is true. Talking to the police could hurt your chances of a successful defense in court.

Remember that anything you say can become evidence against you

Marathon interrogation sessions are a standard tactic employed by officers who want to coerce an individual into a confession. The longer someone goes without sleep and the more time they spend with the same few people, the more likely they are to cooperate against their own best interest or slip up even if they intend to remain silent.

Fatigue can do strange things to the human brain. If you’ve been awake for an entire day and declining to answer the same questions over and over, the idea that answering now might let you get out of the interview room to rest could compel you to speak. However, doing so means that your words become evidence that can help the prosecution in court.

Police and prosecutors can take the things you say out of context. They might ask you leading questions in order to get you to contradict yourself and undermine your credibility. They might feed you tiny details in the hope that you will say something that makes it seem like you have specific knowledge of the crime. There are many ways that officers might manipulate or trick you into saying something that could make it look to everyone else like you are guilty.

Asserting your right to representation can make it easier to stay silent

It can be very hard to withhold responses from law enforcement when you are alone in a room with them. The pressure those officers exert on you is one of many reasons why you may want to make use of your right to an attorney and have someone present with you during questioning.

Your lawyer can assert your right to remain silent on your behalf and guide you through the questioning while minimizing the risk it poses to you. Having help can make it easier to keep the focus on the long-term impact of speaking.

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