Criminal Defense

The Sound of Silence: You have the right to Remain Silent

Criminal law attorney John Rogers from St. Louis has spent the better portion of 25 years helping defendants beat criminal charges. John has worked on a wide variety of cases in both Missouri and Illinois. It is not the stories he tells that captivate the students he teaches the St. Louis University Law School. It is the one statement that drops jaws and makes people take notice.

“I’ve won more criminal cases because of the violation of the right to remain silent,” Rogers said. “Either the arresting officer forgets about the right to remain silent or the officer doesn’t read the suspect his Miranda rights.”

Miranda rights include two fundamental criminal rights: The right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during interrogation. Law enforcement personnel must tell suspects about the two Miranda rights and the failure to do so leads to a quick dismissal of all charges. Even the most hardened criminal is set free if the arresting officer never reads the Miranda Rights.

“You can have a slam dunk case, but it all goes out the window for the failure to repeat a few sentences,” Rogers emphasized.

Overview of the Right to Remain Silent

The legal right to remain silent stems from statutes that protect suspects from making self-incriminating statements. Through coercion or sheer ignorance, some suspects tell things they should keep to themselves until they consult with a licensed criminal defense attorney. Even if a suspect willingly admits to performing a crime, the defense team will immediately petition the judge for permission to question witnesses on the stand who might have saw the arrest and corroborate the suspect’s claim he was never read his or her Miranda rights. If a law enforcement official reads a suspect his or her Miranda rights, and the suspect does and says nothing, the arresting officer can subsequently interrogate the suspect.

The Thing about Remaining Silent

Suspects also have to follow a few legal rules when it comes to the reading of Miranda rights. The irony is that simply remaining silent does not invoke the right to remain silent. Suspects must explicitly say, “I will say nothing more until my attorney arrives,” or something along those lines. Rogers said that he lost cases long before he arrived to police stations because the suspects thought the right to remain silent meant stay silent. “It’s a huge misconception that I try to change by educating people about what they have to do to enjoy Miranda rights protections.”

Even when a suspect incorrectly believes Miranda rights are in effect or waives his right to remain silent and have an attorney present, law enforcement can interrogate the suspect and use the statements made during trial. The waiver does not have to be clear, as a suspect that makes voluntary statements implicitly waives his or her Miranda rights.

How Do You Activate Your Right To Remain Silent?

Rogers said suspects must clearly state they want to remain silent. Statements like “Maybe I should call a lawyer” or “I have nothing to say” does not cut the legal mustard for invoking Miranda rights.

Here are some suggestions from Rogers to help suspects make it clear they want to remain silent:

Clearly state you are exercising your right to stay silent

“I will remain silent”

“I want to speak with my attorney”

“I will say nothing until my attorney arrives”

Highly skilled law enforcement interrogators know how to twist words and make ambiguous sentences that deceive criminal suspects. One more recommendation Rogers has for suspects. “Don’t wait until the officer reads your Miranda rights. When they start to arrest you, calmly state you will remain silent and you want to speak with your attorney,” he said. Rogers also suggest suspects use “My” and “Your” to indicate you already have an attorney. Sometime, that neutralizes aggressive law enforcement personnel.

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