One important right you have under the United States Constitution is the right to remain silent when dealing with the police. You have this right when questioned by them about any traffic, misdemeanor, or felony offense whether they are gathering information from you or questioning you as a suspect in a criminal investigation. Here is what you need to know about how to exercise this right and when the police must inform you of your right to remain silent. 

How and When to Invoke Your Right to Not Speak With the Police

Remaining silent when questioned by the police

You have the right not to talk to the police even before they must inform you of this right, which is part of the Miranda warnings they may be required to give you. If you are stopped by the police for a traffic violation or otherwise contacted by them regarding another criminal investigation or offense, you have a duty to identify yourself if they ask you to.

Once you provide them with this basic information, you do not have to answer their questions. To best protect yourself, you should exercise this right—even if you know you did nothing wrong and have nothing to hide.

When invoking your right to remain silent, you must do this properly. For example, under a United States Supreme Court decision, simply remaining silent is not an effective way to exercise this right.

There is a proper way to inform the police that you are exercising this constitutional right by saying in a polite and respectful manner: “I am exercising my right to remain silent.” You should also inform them that you want to speak to an attorney. Other ways you can say this include:

  • You are exercising your Miranda rights.
  • You want to remain silent.
  • You only want to speak to a lawyer.
  • You are refusing to answer their questions and want to speak to an attorney.

It is important to very clearly state that you are invoking your right. If you make vague statements, such as “I think I should exercise my right to remain silent” or “I think I should talk to an attorney first,” a court could find that you did not properly assert your right.

Protecting Yourself by Invoking Your Right Not to Speak With Police

You only have to inform the police once that you are exercising your right to not speak to them. Once you do so, they should stop questioning you, and no new law enforcement officials should try to interrogate you. In addition, they can’t use any statements you make after invoking your right to remain silent against you.

The Police Must Tell You of Your Right to Remain Silent

Your constitutional right not to speak to the police is so important, they must inform you of this right as part of the Miranda warnings given when they are taking you into custody for interrogations or are arresting you. You would be considered to be in custody if a reasonable person would not believe they were free to leave.

There are three important rights that the police must inform you of when giving you your Miranda warnings. You may have heard them many times when watching movies or television shows. They are:

  1. You have the right to remain silent.
  2. Any statements you make can and will be used against you in court.
  3. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford to hire one, a lawyer will be appointed to represent you.

Can the Police Use Your Silence Against You in Court?

If you properly assert your right to remain silent, your silence cannot be used against you in court. If your case goes to jury trial, the jury would be given a specific instructions not to consider your silence as an admission of guilt.

Do you have questions about your right to remain silent or your other constitutional rights? Have you been questioned or arrested by the police? You need an experienced criminal defense attorney to answer your questions and mount a strong defense strategy for you. To learn how I can assist you, start a live chat to schedule a free initial consultation today.


Stephen Bloomquest
Richmond Family & Criminal Defense Lawyer