No! There is a lot of confusion about this topic. Some suspects wrongly believe that they can “talk their way” out of a criminal charge, while others are given promises that they will be released if they only answer a few questions.
At Bain Sheldon, our criminal defense lawyers understand that the state must prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no reason to hand the prosecutor evidence giftwrapped on a silver platter, so contact one of our lawyers before you say anything you later regret.
You Have a Right to Remain Silent
Anyone who has watched an episode of Law and Order should know their Miranda rights. These rights come from a famous U.S. Supreme Court case in 1966, Miranda v. Arizona:
- You have the right to remain silent
- Anything you say can be used in court against you in court
- You have the right to an attorney
- If you can’t afford an attorney, one will eventually be provided to you
Police must give these warnings before a custodial interrogation. If they don’t, then your attorney can suppress any statements made, which means the prosecutor cannot use the statements to prove your guilt. However, many police officers forget one or more warnings, and some even deceptively “neglect” to tell you your rights until halfway through the interrogation.
We encourage all defendants to invoke their right to remain silent. You should say, “I’m going to remain silent” and then not talk.
Staying Silent is Not Enough
Although you have no obligation to talk, simply staying silent is not enough. In 2010, the Supreme Court considered a case where a man was interrogated for nearly three hours. For most of this time, he said nothing at all after being read his Miranda rights. Only at the end of the interrogation did he admit to killing the victim.
The defendant tried to get his statements tossed, arguing that his silence should have ended the interrogation. However, the Supreme Court disagreed. A majority held that a defendant must invoke a right “unambiguously.” This case provides an important lesson: clearly state you want to be silent and that you will not answer any questions.
Tell the Officers You Want to Speak to a Lawyer
Once you invoke your right to counsel, all interrogation should stop. Also, the police cannot come back later and ask questions without your lawyer present. For this reason, we encourage you to tell any questioning officer that you want an attorney present. Be explicit. Say, “I want an attorney.” The police should stop questioning you immediately. If they don’t, a judge will probably toss the statements.
Of course, you need to be careful about instigating any conversation after you invoke your right to counsel. You can ask to go to the bathroom or request food or water, for example, but don’t say anything else. If you volunteer information, the police can use it against you.
Police must give Miranda warnings only if they have you in custody, which essentially means that you are not free to leave. What happens if a cop shows up at your door and just wants to ask some questions? Should you talk to them?
We recommend taking the officer’s information and telling him you can’t talk right now. Remember, anything you say at any time could come back to haunt you. If you are in any way implicated in the crime, you should speak with an attorney to review what to say, if anything.
Bain Sheldon has defended many men and women accused of crimes, including some of the most serious felonies. We will begin building your defense early, but we need suspects to not give police information in an interrogation. We represent clients throughout Central Virginia, including in Petersburg, Glen Allen, Mechanicsville, Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover, Goochland, New Kent, Dinwiddie, Hopewell, Colonial Heights, Powhatan, Prince George and Ashland.
For more information about how we can help, contact us today.