Understanding the Right to Remain Silent

man thinking

(Image Credit: pixabay.com)

There are few people in America who have not heard the words “You have the right to remain silent…” either in person or, more likely, on television.

Despite that fact, the right to remain silent is actually a poorly-understood concept.

The right to remain silent comes from our Fifth Amendment protections, yet one study published by American Psychologist showed that nearly a third of all defendants believe remaining silent when being questioned by the police could be used as incriminating evidence against them at trial.

Further, according to a National Adult Literacy Survey, nearly three-quarters of inmates tested at a 6th grade reading level or lower, which means the “average” person placed under arrest may not fully comprehend their rights under the Fifth Amendment.

Limited Understanding of the Fifth Amendment Causes Serious Issues

Considering there are more and more mentally ill or intellectually disabled persons who come into contact with our American justice system, it is easy to see why many arrestees simply don’t fully understand their right against self-incrimination. Understanding of this particular right is essential, since it must be actively asserted, and can only be waived knowingly and voluntarily. Even the most seemingly street-wise person could have either a limited, or an erroneous understanding of the right to remain silent.

There is No Single Version of the Miranda Warning

You may be shocked to know that over 800 versions of Miranda are currently in use by law enforcement across the nation. These different versions can differ in reading level all the way from elementary grade to a college level. Further complicating the situation is the fact that many of those arrested have a false believe that they fully understand their Fifth Amendment rights, therefore they simply don’t pay attention when Mirandized.

One of the most common misperceptions regarding the right to remain silent is that many people believe they can continue to be interrogated by the police after invoking their Fifth Amendment rights until their attorney shows up. This is not true! Once you have stated you will not answer questions, that you are invoking your right to remain silent, and that you are requesting an attorney, all questioning by the police should immediately cease.

Problems with Minors and the Right to Remain Silent

The same Miranda rights read to adults are read to juvenile arrestees. When you consider that minors are much more vulnerable to police questioning than adults, and less likely to truly understand their right to remain silent, you can see this is a concern. Nearly a third of all juvenile confessions are later shown to be false, a fact which clearly underlines the fact that minors are very likely to succumb to police pressure and offer a false confession—usually because they have been told that once they confess they can go home.

Why Law Enforcement Should Take Extra Steps to Ensure Arrestees Understand Their Rights

Police officers should go the extra mile to confirm whether the person being arrested fully understand his or her right to remain silent, as this could go a long way toward preventing false confessions—and protecting the integrity of our justice system. This could involve something as simple as asking the person to explain their rights to the officer in order to ensure understanding.

In the case of minors, either a parent, guardian or social worker should always be present to ensure the minor fully understands his or her Fifth Amendment rights. According to Richard Rogers, a psychology professor at the University of North Texas, “Constitutional safeguards are further imperiled when attorneys, judges and forensic evaluators are lulled into complacency by the commonly held misconception that everyone understands their Miranda Rights.”

Contact Our Jackson Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you were arrested in the state of Mississippi, and you feel your Fifth Amendment rights were violated, it could be in your best interests to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney in order to determine what your next step should be. Having a skilled Mississippi criminal defense attorney by your side from start to finish makes a positive outcome much more likely. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at 1-601-948-1600 or 1-877-231-1600.

contact defense attorney

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.

Contact Information