|Right to Remain Silent|
The Fifth Amendment guarantees “no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This right is designed to require prosecutors to shoulder the burden of proving their case without requiring a defendant to explain himself. This right is also meant to discourage police officers from coercing confessions.
A person may assert the right to remain silent whenever being questioned regarding their involvement in a crime. However, a person may not assert the right to simply avoid testifying against another person. Also, the right only pertains to “communications.” The right to silence does not stop the police from photographing a suspect, taking fingerprints, drawing blood for DNA analysis, or participating in a lineup.
A person’s right to silence is not violated if they speak voluntarily to police. Anything they say can be used against them at trial. Many innocent people will speak to police thinking they have nothing to fear since “they have nothing to hide.” However, there is no guarantee the police will not misinterpret what a person says and then later use that statement against them. Rather than speak directly to police, it is better to have a defense attorney speak to police on your behalf. After all, what an attorney says on your behalf cannot be used against you at trial.
You cannot be punished for asserting your right to remain silent. At trial, a prosecutor cannot comment on your refusal to speak to police. Furthermore, a prosecutor cannot comment on a defendant’s refusal to testify during trial. If you are being investigated by the police, there is no need to speak to the police directly. A good defense attorney can effectively act as a buffer between you and the police, telling your side of the story without risking your words being taken out of context and being later used against you.
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