You have many civil rights that apply in different situations. You can find quite a few of the most important rights enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Many of these rights focus on when the state accuses you of wrongdoing or you interact with law enforcement.
Other rights aren’t specifically included in the Constitution but have become part of the common practice of criminal law in the United States. The right to remain silent is an often misunderstood right that too many people who encounter police fail to assert for themselves.
Why is your right to remain silent crucial if you find yourself suspected of some kind of criminal activity?
What you say to the police will likely only harm you
People wrongly presume that remaining silent makes them look guilty or uncooperative. They hope that talking about the situation will cause the police officers to sympathize with them and realize they aren’t criminals.
In your eagerness to demonstrate your compliance and innocence, you could overlook the fact that police aren’t there to exonerate you. Their sole goal is to gather enough evidence to bring charges against someone.
Officers will ask leading questions or encourage what seems like polite and general conversation with the hope of getting you to admit that you were somewhere, that you felt a certain way or that you knew a person. They might try to get you to contradict yourself by asking similar questions in several different ways. The whole point is to either connect you to a crime or undermine your version of events so that they can charge you.
You can help with an investigation without endangering yourself
Another commonly cited reason that people offer for openly speaking with the police during an investigation is their desire to help the police solve the crime and protect their community. They may want to provide certain information so that the police can stop wasting resources on investigating them and find the actual criminals involved.
In situations where you simply don’t want to speak and implicate yourself and in scenarios where you want to help but don’t want to get into trouble, having an attorney present when you interact with police can sway things in your favor.
A lawyer can let you know when you don’t need to answer questions and help you finesse the way you respond to avoid falling victim to manipulative interrogation tactics. Avoiding saying the wrong thing to police is usually the first step toward successfully defending against a possible criminal charge.