Understanding your rights is essential to building a strong foundation for your defense, should you be charged with a crime. One of the most fundamental rights we have as citizens of the United States is the right to remain silent. While most people can recite the Miranda warning off the top of their head -- part of it at least, few people take the time to consider what it means when the government says, "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you before questioning if you wish."
This is the first in two-part series, dedicated to discussing your constitutional rights to remain silent and have an attorney present during questioning.
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
Put another way, the right to remain silent is the right to refuse to incriminate yourself, under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and the state of Rhode Island. Practically speaking, most criminal defense attorneys have never seen a person talk their way out of criminal charges - but we have seen plenty of people talk their way into criminal chargeMany people are told by law enforcement their only chance to show the judge what kind of person they are is during questioning by law enforcement. This is not the case. (Yes, law enforcement can lie to you during questioning. That is the topic of another post, however.) You should embrace your right to remain silent. If the police want to talk to you, it is probably because they suspect you may be guilty of a crime. Let them know you do not wish to speak to them without a lawyer present.
Everything You Say Can and Will be Used Against You
If you choose to speak with law enforcement, everything you say can be used against you - even things you said by mistake. Imagine, for example, the police ask where you were two weeks ago Thursday. Imagine you tell them you were at the ball game. But imagine you were nervous and not really thinking, and it turns out it was three weeks ago Thursday you were at the ball game. Two weeks ago, you were with your girlfriend and her mother having dinner at her house. Unfortunately, you can correct the record at a later date, but it will become a question of your credibility. During the time you remember your mistake, the police have already looked up the team schedule, confirmed there was no game two weeks ago, and presumed you intentionally lied to them because you are concealing your involvement in a crime.
If Police Want to Question You...
If the police want to question you, remember your rights. You have the right to remain silent. A lawyer can work with you to determine when, if ever, it might be a good idea to speak with the police. Contact the Law Office of Kensley R. Barrett, Esq. at 401-380-6724 for a consultation today. And stay tuned for the second part of this blog so you know your full rights.