When it comes to the rights of an individual under arrest by law enforcement, the right to remain silent is one of the most universally acknowledged across the United States. After all, everyone has seen a movie or TV show where law enforcement officers rattle off the Miranda Warning as they put someone in the back seat of a police cruiser.
Unfortunately, while people may know that they have the right to remain silent in theory, not as many people actually invoke that right in order to protect themselves when in police custody. It is particularly common for those who feel that they did not commit a crime to cooperate with law enforcement officers and speak openly, only to find their words twisted up and used against them later as a means of bringing charges against them.
Under the Fifth Amendment, you can’t be forced to speak against yourself
The Fifth Amendment specifically protects individuals from abusive interrogation or coercion during legal proceedings that would force them to give testimony or evidence that would result in their conviction.
You can invoke this right when interacting with law enforcement by stating that you refuse to answer questions. You can also invoke this right when in court. In theory, a judge can compel you to answer certain questions unless there is reason for concern that they could be used to incriminate you. Those testifying in court can plead the Fifth Amendment as a means to avoid answering potentially damaging questions.
The police are definitely not there to help you
When police officers start asking you questions about where you were and what led up to certain events, they may try to establish a rapport with you so that they seem friendly and helpful. You must remind yourself that their primary focus is to find someone to arrest and to validate that arrest by gathering evidence against that person.
The statements you make to the police or even to other people while in police custody can wind up giving an officer a reason to arrest you or a reason to charge you with a crime after an arrest. Invoking your right to remain silent may result in a long wait for you, but when the alternatives are self-incrimination and the complications this might create for your legal situation, silence is clearly the better option.