The right not to incriminate yourself is a fundamental principle in the Bill of Rights. While it is possible to incriminate yourself in a variety of ways, making statements to police officers or detectives may be disastrous. Remaining silent keeps you from saying something problematic.
Before officers conduct a custodial interrogation, they likely must inform you of your Miranda rights. While your right to remain silent is part of the Miranda advisement, invoking this right can be difficult. After all, officers know how to get criminal suspects and others to talk.
Practice makes perfect
If you expect officers may question you in connection with a criminal investigation, you should know they do not always have to play by fair rules. Mentally rehearsing your arrest and interrogation, including how you intend to invoke your right to remain silent, may boost your confidence and prevent you from saying something incriminating.
Detectives may use technical loopholes to question you when you are remaining silent. Even if you sit quietly and say nothing, they may continue to interrogate you until you break down and incriminate yourself. Therefore, you must use concise language when informing officers of your decision.
Telling officers you are invoking your right to remain silent leaves little doubt about your intentions. Requesting a lawyer should also end the interrogation.
Silence is golden
After you invoke your right to remain silent or ask for an attorney, officers may not continue to question you. Nevertheless, they may use any voluntary statements you make against you. This may be true even if officers are not in the room, as detectives usually videotape suspects in interrogation rooms. Put simply, after invoking your right to remain silent, you must stop talking.
It is not hard to find prisoners who are doing time for crimes they confessed to but did not commit. Therefore, until you understand the legal consequences of your words and have competent legal counsel, you should consider firmly and unambiguously asserting your right to remain silent.