Why Do We Have the “Right to Remain Silent”?

Why Do We Have the “Right to Remain Silent”?

(TruthandLiberty.com) – The US Constitution does not directly state that citizens have the right to remain silent. Instead, the right is implied through the legal interpretation of the Fifth Amendment. The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) was instrumental in how the right to remain silent applies to daily life. The Fifth Amendment states, in part:

“No person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself...”

The Interpretation

The most accepted interpretation of the Fifth Amendment is that it prevents any legal authority from forcing you to self-incriminate. Essentially, this gives you a better chance at a fair trial with proper legal representation.

The Miranda Warning

Miranda warnings might be the most common functional use of the right to remain silent. The warning states you do not have to speak because anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. Understanding these protections ensures you the opportunity to avoid self-incrimination.

The Miranda warning resulted from a 1966 SCOTUS ruling in the case of Miranda v. Arizona. The Court decided people must receive a full statement of their constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent, before an officer takes them into custody.

All law enforcement officers recite some form of the Miranda warning when placing people under arrest. Investigators may also advise you of your rights prior to interrogation, even if you aren’t a suspect at the time of the interview.

Why the Right to Remain Silent Matters

The Bill of Rights, including the right to remain silent, is considered sacred in US law because it preserves personal freedoms. As part of ensuring fairness within the criminal system, also known as due process, the right to avoid self-incrimination is critical, and the right to remain silent is key. Even when defendants are innocent and have nothing to hide, most lawyers will advise exercising the right to silence until an attorney is present because even a simple misspoken statement can be considered an admission of a crime.

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