What is My Constitutional Right to Remain Silent?
You’ve likely seen the “right to remain silent” referenced numerous times on television and in the movies, but many people don’t know exactly what it means. The right to remain silent refers to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This amendment protects you from being forced to testify or say anything that could possibly incriminate yourself. It does not necessarily mean you have the right not to say anything at all times. Depending on the situation, the police may take your silence as incriminating evidence.
If you need assistance with a criminal matter in Florida, let an experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer help. To assist you in better understanding your constitutional rights, here’s a look at some situations where people invoke their right to remain silent.
Remaining Silent at Trial
Under the Fifth Amendment, you cannot be compelled to be a witness against yourself in any criminal trial. The Fifth Amendment’s main application involves criminal court proceedings, which is why the prosecution is not allowed to require defendants to testify as a witness. The decision to testify is the defendant’s choice, which should always be discussed with a skilled Tampa criminal defense lawyer. In cases where defendants choose not to testify, the prosecutor cannot comment on that fact in an attempt to sway the jury.
There may be situations where someone can testify and not risk further criminal action. This is what’s known as an immunity deal. The prosecution might offer someone an immunity deal in exchange for their testimony as part of a more significant, ongoing case. Immunity provisions offered at the federal court level have the same protections.
Remaining Silent During Police Interrogations
It can be difficult to make the decision to remain silent during police questioning or interrogation. While you may not be required to answer an officer’s questions, it is not uncommon for law enforcement to hold a grudge against someone who refuses to talk to them. As a general rule, however, you should almost never talk to law enforcement without the aid fo an experienced lawyer. Police are required to stop questioning you once you invoke your right to an attorney or to remain silent. Any statements you make in response to law enforcement questioning after that will generally be inadmissible in court. Law enforcement has to advise you of your Miranda Rights before conducting custodial interrogation.
Your Miranda Rights were court-created based upon the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and now, before questioning begins, police officers should advise someone being arrested that:
- Whatever they say can and will be used against them in court;
- They have a right to retain an attorney;
- Their lawyer can be present during questioning;
- A lawyer will be appointed to represent them free of charge if they cannot personally afford one; and
- If they opt to answer the police officer’s questions, they have the right to stop the interview at any time.
Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested for an alleged crime in Tampa, don’t go through it alone. Ask to speak with a Tampa criminal attorney and contact Faulkner Law Group, PLLC, today. Let us help ensure your rights are protected and build the best defense possible.