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Mississippi Lawyer Blog

Is Not Talking to the Police the Same Thing as the Right to Remain Silent?

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You may think that not talking to the police is the same as invoking your right to remain silent, under your Miranda Rights. As a matter of fact, you must actually speak, in order to invoke your right to remain silent.

In other words, you can’t simply refuse to talk, without clearly and unambiguously stating you will not answer any questions until you have spoken with your attorney.

While you don’t have to use those exact words, you do have to be extremely clear in your intentions to prevent a police officer from (deliberately) misinterpreting your statement. Further, once you have invoked your right to remain silent, you can’t then decide to answer “just a couple” of questions. Once you answer a question, you have effectively waived your right to remain silent.

When Should You Invoke Your Right to Remain Silent?

You may also wonder just when you should invoke your right to remain silent, and what is the best way to do so. Law enforcement officers are required to provide you a Miranda warning only if you are in custody. The problem is, “in custody” can, surprisingly, be a pretty fuzzy area. In essence, if your freedom has been curtailed in any significant manner—even if you are not handcuffed or placed behind bars—then you could be considered in custody.

Are you able to get up and leave? If you ask the officer whether you are under arrest, if the answer is affirmative, then you should have been Mirandized. If another reasonable person would believe he or she was in custody, and not free to leave, then you could logically assume you are in custody and should have been read your Miranda Rights. The “fuzzy” part comes into play because police officers routinely question suspects after (carefully) letting the suspect known he or is not under arrest.

If I Answer the Officer’s Questions, Won’t I Be Allowed to Go Home?

Unfortunately, many suspects talk, simply because they believe if they fully answer the officer’s questions, they will be on their way home shortly. It is important to note three things: First, police officers are allowed to use deception, even blatant lies, in order to get a suspect to admit to a crime, however they do have to answer truthfully if you ask if you are free to leave. Second, if the police are questioning you, they already believe you have committed a crime or have information related to the commission of a crime. And third, if the officer says you are free to leave, do so immediately, without another word. Then, as soon as you can, contact a Mississippi criminal defense attorney and apprise him or her of the situation.

Interrogating a Suspect

The term “interrogation” includes asking direct questions, as well as any words or actions taken by a police officer which could elicit an incriminating response from the suspect. The backbone of the Miranda warnings, has always been that the prosecution cannot use your silence as evidence of guilt in a court of law. This is an important concept, because many people believe if they invoke their right to remain silent, they will look guilty. This changed, to some degree, in 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court held that prosecutors could, under appropriate circumstances, point to the silence of a suspect who was not in custody at the time, as evidence of guilt. The Court ruled that the prosecution is allowed to comment on a suspect’s silence if:

  • The suspect has not been Mirandized;
  • The suspect has voluntarily submitted to police questioning, and
  • The suspect stayed silent, but did not expressly invoke his or her Fifth Amendment Rights.

If, however, you expressly invoked your Fifth Amendment Rights, then the prosecutor cannot comment on your silence as evidence of guilt. So, basically any time the police want to question you, whether you are in custody, not in custody, or being questioned “voluntarily,” it is extremely important that you verbally invoke your right to remain silent until you have spoken to your attorney—then call an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

Contact Our Jackson Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Meridian, or anywhere in the State of Mississippi, the best thing you can do is to contact an experienced Mississippi criminal defense attorney who will protect your rights to a fair trial and safeguard your future.

At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and we work tirelessly to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at 1-601-948-1600 or 1-877-231-1600.

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Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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