Understanding Your Rights to Silence

It’s safe to say just about everyone knows of the phrase, “You have the right to remain silent.” Also known as the Miranda rights. These rights protect the suspect from self-incriminating statements that may later be used as evidence against them. Once a suspect invokes the Miranda right, the police are expected to halt any interrogation.

Any statement made after exercising the right to silence is invalid in court. The constitutional right represented in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects a person from being compelled to give out information that could incriminate them. This same right does not mean that a person must be silent throughout the entire investigation.

There are, however, cases where the police can use a person’s silence as incriminating evidence against them. But this is possible only when the suspect gives up the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination by voluntarily speaking with the police from the onset.

Becoming Mirandized

If you have ever been arrested or been on an arrest scene before, you probably observed the police reading out the suspect’s rights to them. The Miranda rights offer the suspect the choice of not saying anything to the police until they can speak to an attorney.

The police will Mirandize a person who will likely face an interrogation. However, an arrest can occur without the police reading out the right to silence. But, if an interrogation happens after the arrest, the police must issue that warning at that time. If the suspect is not Mirandized and answers any questions, the police can use it as evidence against them in court.

Additionally, a person already Mirandized can decide to waive their rights and speak to the police on their own accord without the presence of an attorney. They have the right to a change of mind at any time by pleading the Fifth Amendment rights, and invoking the right to silence means that they no longer want to answer any question without the presence of an attorney.

When to Invoke your Miranda Rights

As soon as the police start questioning you, you can decide to exercise your Miranda rights. Once you invoke this right, the interrogation ceases. You have to be verbal with your request to remain silent and only speak to your counsel.

Just staying silent does not in any way invoke the right to silence. Asking for an attorney to be present before answering any question is written in the Sixth Amendment. The supreme court holds that the police must halt whatever interrogation is going on with a suspect once they assert their right to an attorney.

You may be wondering why it is necessary to invoke Miranda rights. Exercising the right to silence while undergoing an interrogation will help save the suspect from releasing information that could incriminate them later on.

What happens When you Fail to Invoke your Miranda Right

In the same way a suspect has a right to an attorney, the police also can bypass the Miranda rights in certain procedures. Let’s assume a suspect spoke voluntarily to the police before their arrest and then went silent after being asked the same question during an arrest. Their silence will be seen as incriminating.

The police will use their initial testimony to indict them in the course of the trial. This does not violate an individual’s Miranda rights because they failed to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights before the arrest.

Where Immunity Applies

The immunity only applies in court as an exception to the right to self-incrimination only when the prosecutors have granted you immunity from prosecution. The Supreme Court states that the federal law for immunity provision offers the same protection as the Fifth Amendment as seen in the case of Kastigar v. the United States, 406 U.S. 441, 446 (1972).

Wrapping Up

Your right to remain silent is designed to protect you during a trial or questioning while avoiding self-incriminating statements that may put you in trouble. The decision made by the United States Supreme Court in the case Miranda v. Arizona says that once a suspect throws caution to the wind and decides to consent to a search or cooperate with law enforcement by answering questions, they give up the right to remain silent.

The Fourth and Fifth Amendments right is now null and void by cooperating with law enforcement and answering questions. The suspect will have to continue assisting throughout the trial or arrest period. Therefore, it is vital to know when to exercise your right to remain silent and speak with an experienced criminal lawyer.


Sudarsan Chakraborty is a professional writer. He contributes to many high-quality blogs. He loves to write on various topics.