What Does it Mean to Have the Right to Remain Silent?

image of man on his knees being arrested by police officers - What Does it Mean to Have the Right to Remain Silent

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If you’re a fan of crime shows and movies, you’ve probably heard police officers recite the Miranda warning as they arrest someone so What Does it Mean to Have the Right to Remain Silent?

The warning goes,

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”

Although the Miranda warning specifically is only utilized in the United States, the right to remain silent is implicated in many legal systems around the world.

But what does it actually mean to have the right to remain silent?

What Does it Mean?

Having the right to remain silent means that if you have been arrested, you do not have to answer questions or speak to police officers or any other person of authority.

This right is implicated from the moment you are arrested and continues throughout the entirety of your trial.

You may be familiar with the saying “plead the Fifth” or “take the Fifth” to refer to someone who refuses to answer a question. This saying comes from the fact that the right to remain silent is the Fifth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.

Hiring a Lawyer

If you have been arrested, the first thing you should do is hire a criminal lawyer. If, for example, you have been arrested for drug possession in Ontario, wait until you have found the right criminal lawyer in Toronto and speak to them about your case before speaking to anyone else.

Hiring a criminal lawyer is crucial due to the fact that it is human nature to defend yourself, especially if you are truly innocent. But if you don’t understand the ins and outs of the legal system, you could say something that may unintentionally incriminate you.

On the flip side, even if you think there is no hope for your case, a lawyer will be able to help ensure you receive a fair sentence. They will also be able to advise you on what you should and shouldn’t say to the authorities in order to get you the best outcome possible.

Choosing to Speak

If you do choose to speak to police officers at any point, you must tell the truth. This is where the second part of the Miranda rights, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” comes into effect.

Lying to a police officer is a criminal offence and may leave you with more criminal charges than you would have otherwise had. Moreover, everything you say to a police officer is binding; therefore, any changes in your statement to a police officer will be used against you.

If your right to silence is not respected, whatever you say to the police will be discarded in court. This means that if, for example, you are coerced into speaking, your lawyer will be able to ensure that whatever you say is not used in court as your rights have been violated.

 

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