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How To Exercise Your Right To Remain Silent

by Marie Caldwell

You've almost surely heard that you have the right to remain silent, but do you know what that actually means? To receive full legal protections, you need to carefully exercise your constitutional rights. Here's how to protect your right to remain silent.

What Exactly Is The Right To Remain Silent?

The right to remain silent actually comes from the right against being forced to incriminate yourself. Basically, it means you can't be used as a witness in your own trial either directly or to find other evidence against you.

You don't have to testify at trial, and you don't have to answer any questions from the police except for your name. The reason you have to give your name is it's not considered evidence.

How to Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

Strangely, you cannot exercise your right to remain silent just by remaining silent. If you remain silent, the police are free to keep questioning you and trying to get you to talk.

To exercise your right to remain silent, you need to say that you are doing so and that you won't be answering any questions. Only then are the police required to stop questioning you.

Can You Lose Your Right to Remain Silent?

The right to remain silent is one of the most important constitutional rights, so it is almost absolute. However, there are circumstances when you might give it up.

The first is when you choose to testify in your own trial. If you do, the prosecution is free to cross examine you on any subject the judge deems relevant to the trial.

If you make a verbal outburst in court in the presence of the jury, the judge may also consider it a waiver of your right to remain silent and allow the prosecution to cross examine you.

What Happens If Your Right to Remain Silent is Violated?

If you state that you are exercising your right to remain silent, and police keep interrogating you to get you to talk, it is a violation of your constitutional rights. Even if you say you are changing your mind waiving the right, it's a violation because the police are considered to have pressured you into doing so.

Any statements you make under questioning that violates your right to remain silent can't be admitted into evidence in court.

To learn more about how to exercise your rights, contact a local criminal defense attorney today. For a criminal lawyer, contact a law firm such as Connolly & Associates.