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When and How to Invoke Your Right to Silence

When and How to Invoke Your Right to Silence

In the United States, every Criminal Defendant, as well as potential criminal defendant, has the right to remain silent. The right to remain silent is conferred upon individuals in the United States under the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In other words, you do not have to speak to police if you are questioned.

Under both Federal and Pennsylvania law, police are allowed to conduct what is called an "investigatory stop" which allows police to ask you your name, where you are going, and briefly detain you, but not place you in custody. The legal difference between detaining you and custody is a subject for another article, but the basic difference is that if a person is briefly stopped by police, a reasonable person must believe that they are free to go. Custody is when a reasonable person doesn't believe they are free to go.

The right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment attaches when you are in custody. Police are required to read you what is called "Miranda Rights", and tell you that you have the right to remain silent.

If you find yourself in custody, then you must invoke the right to remain silent. You can invoke your right to remain silent by telling police that you do not want to speak to them without an attorney present. Once you tell them you do not wish to speak to them, they must stop asking you questions.

Be careful, however, because you could admit to something after you invoke that right if you volunteer information during casual conversation with a police officer.

This content was written on behalf of Greg Prosmushkin.

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