5 Reasons Why Remaining Silent Can Save You From Prosecution
Over my many years of practice, my clients have asked this basic question in various ways: Why shouldn’t I go in, talk to the police and explain what happened?
When I explain to them that it’s simply not a good idea, especially if they are being investigated or have been arrested for a crime, I like to remind them of this famous World War II-era phrase, “Loose lips sink ships.”
The more you talk, the more you risk. As a criminal defense lawyer, I have seen serious consequences from talking to the police. Waiving your right to remain silent hurts more than it helps.
Not convinced? Here are five reasons why staying silent can save you from prosecution:
- Loose Lips Sink Ships
Why do so many people want to willfully disregard the wise sayings, their Constitutional rights, and the TV lawyers?
It usually boils down to the stigma that society has associated with “remaining silent.” When confronted with accusations and allegations, society has taught us that the innocent person wants to scream their innocence from the highest mountain and assumes that the “bad guy” doesn’t want to incriminate himself.
No matter what society may expect, or worse, assume, every single person who is facing a criminal investigation, charge or arrest must remember that it is always better to remain silent and get a lawyer.
As a criminal defense lawyer, I have seen the serious consequences that talking to law enforcement (the police) brings. If my experience in this area has taught me anything, it is that far more people, even innocent ones, have gotten into trouble by waiving their right to remain silent during a police interrogation than those who have taken my advice and invoked this fundamental right.
- The Job of the Police is to investigate Crimes, NOT be Your Friend
Still, some people think that they can talk their way out of trouble at the police station, or think they can establish a rapport with the police.
I have encountered countless clients who have told me that the police interrogators were friendly, encouraged them to keep talking to “help themselves out” or have asked for help to “find out who’s really at fault.”
The police are employing the techniques that they have been taught, and plenty of ordinary citizens fall for this. You will talk yourself into trouble, not out of it.
- What You Say WILL Be Used Against You
Let’s assume a scenario where while being questioned by police, you decide to spell out facts you think will prove some “big misunderstanding” and why you shouldn’t be under suspicion. While under the stress and pressure of interrogation, you will make mistakes in memory, misstate things, and likely exaggerate or deemphasize facts. Any shading of the truth will undoubtedly be seized upon by the police or prosecutor to cast doubt on your entire statement and cause the investigation to become more focused on you. Your words can be easily twisted to fit a conclusion or preconception.
- “Thank you but I want to remain silent and speak to a lawyer”
Remember that you have a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. This right should always be invoked to trump our natural inclination to speak, to explain ourselves and most importantly, to answer the questions of law enforcement.
Unless you’ve been practicing criminal law or are professionally trained to make statements to law enforcement or prosecutors, and have a thorough knowledge of the potential legal ramifications of every remark you make, my advice is to always invoke your right to remain silent. You don’t have to be rude about it. In fact, I would strongly advise that you keep it simple and polite by saying something like “Thank you but I want to remain silent and speak to a lawyer.” Always stick to that phrase.
- Always Let Your Lawyer Do the Talking
Once you invoke your right to remain silent and have asked for a lawyer, the police are obligated to stop interrogating you and let you speak to an attorney. Once you have a lawyer, let the lawyer do all the talking that may or may not be necessary.
The next time you are stopped by police (even a traffic stop), are being investigated or questioned, or are arrested for any criminal offense, remember that “Silence is Golden” and always invoke your right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer. Your rights are more powerful than any pressure, stigma or assumptions that anyone can make, so use them.
Stephen J. Riebling, Jr. is a criminal defense attorney and partner with Riebling & Payton, PLLC, located in Westchester County, NY and has been practicing for more than 20 years. To learn more about Mr. Riebling and the firm, visit Riebling & Payton, PLLCat www.WestchesterDefenseAttorney.com.