You’ve heard it a million times on TV cop shows: “You have the right to remain silent.” But do you really know what those words mean? Criminal defense attorneys with Gainesville’s Law Offices of Edwards & Jones Criminal Defense offer a few tips in case you’re ever on the receiving end of that phrase.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
The Fifth Amendment was drafted to help protect American citizens’ privacy and places the burden to build a legal case against an individual on the accuser. But it doesn’t mean exactly what many think it does. For instance, it does not say explicitly that you, if arrested or charged with a crime, have the right to remain silent. Instead, it means simply that you cannot be compelled to be a witness against yourself or reveal any information that might implicate you in a crime.
Criminal attorneys insist that you make full use of your right to remain silent, even if – especially if – you have absolutely nothing to hide. Innocent people often trip themselves up, believing that if they simply tell their story to law enforcement officials, everything will be cleared up and they’ll soon be on their way. But talking simply raises your risk for entrapment. One reason is that innocent people often overestimate or underestimate facts in their vigorous explanations. Any minor misstatement makes a testimony technically untrue and you can bet that an opposing attorney will use it to cast doubt on your story.
Another reason to keep quiet is that cops, too, are only human. Any police officer can make an honest mistake when recounting your words. If it comes down to a he said-he said between you and a respected law enforcement official, no doubt the cop will win.
Your best bet is to never talk with a police officer or any government agent without an attorney representing you. The Law Offices of Edwards & Jones Criminal Defense focuses solely on criminal defense law. If you are facing criminal charges of any sort, contact us at (352) 329-3632.