Know Your Rights and Shut Your MOUTH!

The following is a video transcript.

Whether it’s a typical traffic stop, or you were just involved in a use of force incident, encounters with law enforcement can be scary and stressful. In the heat of the moment, you may inadvertently say something you don’t mean or make an inconsistent statement. These are red flags for officers, and if they think you’re lying or your story doesn’t add up, they might arrest you and let the criminal justice system decide your fate.

“I invoke my right to remain silent.”

Police officers are trained to get information from you without making the interaction seem like a formal interrogation. But remember, from the moment an officer arrives on the scene, everything you say and everything you do will be scrutinized in court. The prosecuting attorney will attempt to use anything and everything against you.

So, what do you say? You say: “I invoke my right to remain silent.” and then let your attorney interact with law enforcement on your behalf.

One important note though: do not throw common sense out the window. For example, if the intruder is hiding somewhere in your house when the police arrive or if you saw the perpetrator pitch his weapon into your backyard, quickly tell the police and then stop talking.

Miranda Rights

You might ask, “What about my rights? What if the police never read me my Miranda rights?” “Miranda rights” are the common name for a collection of rights contained in the Miranda warning given to suspects when they are placed under arrest. The warning comes from a 1966 Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona.

In that case, the court held that statements from a custodial interrogation would not be admissible unless proper procedural safeguards were in place to protect the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights. We have all seen these warnings on TV and in movies: “You have the right to remain silent, you have the right to have an attorney, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” and so on.

Do police have to read you your rights? No. It’s important to note that officers are not required to read you these rights unless you are in custody AND subjected to interrogation. If the police show up to a crime scene and start asking you general questions and you voluntarily tell them everything that happened, those statements can be used against you regardless of the Miranda warning because you’re not in custody. If you are put in handcuffs and you say something incriminating on your own without being questioned, those statements can and will be used against you because you are not being interrogated—you are just starting to spout off.

This is why it is imperative that you know your rights, and you should not rely on the police to read them to you. Affirmatively invoke your rights! Say, “I’m invoking my right to remain silent and my right to an attorney.” Once you do that, the police legally should not continue questioning you without your attorney present. But remember, there is a second part to this equation. After invoking your rights, you must exercise those rights. That means you have to keep your mouth closed.

Protect yourself. Don’t let the legal system take advantage of you after an incident.

And LawShield members, if you have been involved in a self-defense incident, remember to call the emergency hotline and speak with your Independent Program Attorney.

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