It is common for clients to ask me if I can get their case dismissed because the police did not tell them that they have the right to remain silent when they were arrested. The right to remain silent comes from the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution which protects citizens from incriminating themselves. This means that you cannot be forced to testify against yourself. The 5th Amendment’s right to remain silent is an important right that every citizen has but is not asserted as often as it should be by criminal defendants. In order for a statement made to the police during a custodial interrogation to be used against you in Court, the state has to prove that you made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of your 5th Amendment right to remain silent. Let me explain.
It’s important to know when your 5th Amendment right to remain silent kicks in. Many people mistakenly believe that you can assert your 5th Amendment rights as soon as you are arrested. But that may not always be the case. The 5th Amendment’s right against self-incrimination applies to situations in which the defendant is in custody and is being questioned by the police. If you waive your 5th Amendment right to remain silent and voluntarily speak to the police, anything you tell them can be used against you in Court to prosecute you for the crime(s) that you are being charged with.
There are 2 basic elements to the 5th Amendment that must apply to the case in order for the 5th Amendment to kick in. The first element is ‘custody’. In order for the 5th Amendment to apply, you had to have been in custody. Whether you were in custody or not depends on the specific facts of your case. Generally, you will be considered to have been in custody if you were not free to leave. When raising a possible 5th Amendment violation in Court, when the police officer is testifying, the defense attorney will ask the officer if the defendant was free to leave when the questioning began.