Rights are important before, during and after arrests. The right remain silent is one of the most important.
Basically, one would be at liberty to remain silent during questioning and during a criminal defense. The purpose of this right is to ensure that nobody is forced into self-incrimination. However, exercising it is not always easy or straightforward.
Before an arrest
One of the more complicated topics in terms of the right to remain silent is what happens before an arrest. For example, in the important US Supreme Court decision Salinas vs. Texas, the court decided that silence itself could potentially become incriminating evidence.
The case involved someone who was cooperating with law-enforcement officers until questions arose related to a murder. After specific questions of the crime, the defendant became silent without invoking his right not to incriminate himself.
It bears mentioning that many crimes, especially white-collar offenses, have long investigation periods. The right to remain silent is often especially complex in these cases.
During an arrest
During an arrest, officers should inform arrestees of rights to remain silent and rights to have an attorney, among others. However, they do not typically have an obligation to provide information about how to exercise these rights effectively or the consequences of providing information.
After an arrest
The right to remain silent would remain important through the arrest process, any negotiations with prosecutors, your trial and any appeals. As explained by the Cornell Law Library, this right comes from the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination. Under the modern interpretation, it usually allows people accused of a crime to withhold statements for two main reasons:
- To avoid a conviction
- To prevent prosecutors from collecting enough evidence to pursue a successful case
Firmly asserting rights to silence and consul may seem adversarial. However, it is usually one of the best ways for arrestees to strengthen their cases.