Regardless of whether an officer pulls you over on suspicion of DUI, comes to your home to execute a search warrant or otherwise comes into contact with you out in public, his or her primary focus will revolve around determining whether you committed a crime. Doing so often involves asking questions and attempting to get you to admit to some wrongdoing.
Your primary focus needs to remain on protecting your rights. Just about every crime show or movie has a police officer advising a suspect of the right to remain silent as the officer slaps on the cuffs. Like many others here in Kansas, watching those shows or movies was the first time you learned about your rights. Many of those shows also involve a character telling the person under arrest "not to say a word." Unfortunately, this could do more harm than good.
Does remaining silent invoke your right to remain silent?
You absolutely have the right to remain silent. The U.S. Constitution protects that right for you, but after numerous court cases that have gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, exercising that right requires you to say something. You can't merely refuse to answer any questions and assume that the arresting officer and other officials will understand your intentions.
You must take affirmative steps regarding your decision not to say anything by making the following statements:
- You want to remain silent.
- You are exercising your right to remain silent.
- You will only speak to your attorney.
- You want to speak to your attorney before saying anything.
You don't have to use those exact words, but your meaning must leave no room for misinterpretation. Many people don't want to antagonize police officers, so they may use vague language such as "maybe," "I plan to" or some other words that do not necessarily convey that your choice is clear.
Remain vigilant after invoking your right to remain silent
Once you clearly invoke your right to remain silent, no law enforcement official may question you. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking that your right only extends to one person. If another interrogator enters the room, he or she may attempt to convince you to make statements. Police officers often lie in order to get you to talk. Instead of giving in, remain calm and make no statements until your legal representation arrives.