Most people have seen television shows that show someone getting arrested and being told they have the right to remain silent. You may even play into the saying as a joke when someone asks an uncomfortable question where you “choose to remain silent” or “pleading the fifth.”

However, the right to remain silent is a critical right for anyone facing criminal charges, and it’s important to understand how and when to invoke your silence around the police effectively.

What does the “right to remain silent” mean?

When officers arrest you, you are told your constitutional rights, including your right to remain silent. After an arrest, the policemen may try to question you and hear your side of the story, but you may invoke the right to silence immediately and refuse any of their questions without having an attorney present. You do not have to answer anything.

Why is it a good idea to remain silent?

There is a large misconception that silence means guilt. In reality, invoking silence may be the best way to protect yourself and any information you have while you wait for advice from an attorney. A few good reasons to be silent include:

  • Variations in your testimony could be used against you in a trial
  • Stress or exhaustion may trigger you to confess to crimes you didn’t commit
  • You may share irrelevant lies that do not affect the charges but make you look more suspicious
  • You are likely not aware of all the facts that the officers have and therefore they may try to get you to admit “little things” that will make you look guilty

The officers or detectives may try to pressure you into saying something or telling a specific story for their narrative, but using your right ensures you are not incriminating yourself or anyone else. It may even help cut you a better deal or plea bargain in certain cases. Just remember, do not be afraid to be silent if that is the best defense for you and wait until you can bring on proper representation.