How Do I Invoke the Right to Remain Silent?

Updated on 08/10/2023 / Under

We've all seen the reading of a suspect’s Miranda rights in real life and on TV shows. Because of the many crime dramas on television, we have heard about these rights so many times. Plus, a law enforcement officer should remind you of those rights if you're ever in custody. Unfortunately, having to invoke the right to remain silent is not as easy as one would think. Knowing when and how to exercise your Miranda rights or your right to speak an experienced lawyer is a real challenge.

Many of us feel intimidated and nervous when the police question us, making us scared about asking for a criminal lawyer or asserting our legal right to refuse to answer questions. 

In this article, we'll discuss the best way to invoke the right to remain silent. But when in doubt, reach out to an experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyer for help. At Ktenas Law, our law offices are open 24/7 and our legal team is ready to protect your legal rights. Call our criminal defense law firm today at (312) 756-8652 for a no-cost consultation.

What's a Miranda Warning?

Law enforcement officers nationwide are required to inform people under arrest of their rights before police interrogation. The Miranda warning serves two fundamental purposes:

  • It preserves the validity of statements made during legal police interrogations and
  • It protects a defendant who hasn't been charged with a crime from incriminating themselves before they can consult with an attorney.

If you’ve been arrested, you don't have to answer police questions without an experienced lawyer present.

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A Miranda warning makes sure that defendants know their legal right to legal counsel and their legal right to remain silent—anything said by the suspect after a Miranda warning has been issued can be used against them in a court of law. Also, a Miranda warning requires that those who are arrested be asked to confirm that they understand their legal rights.

Alex Ktenas, Chicago criminal defense attorney

While the wording of the Miranda warning may vary from one state to another, it includes the following key points:

  • You may refuse to answer questions and remain silent.
  • You may speak with a criminal lawyer before talking to law enforcement officers and an attorney can be present during police interrogation.
  • If you can't afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before questioning.
  • If you decide to answer police questions without an experienced  lawyer present, you can stop answering questions at any time until you have a lawyer.
  • Do you understand your Miranda rights as they have been described?
  • Do you want to answer any more questions without a lawyer present?

Law enforcement officers often avoid arresting suspects until they’ve gathered incriminating statements and evidence. This includes statements made to police officers before issuing the Miranda warning or the official arrest. However, any confession or statement made by a defendant can’t be used as evidence if the police officer arrested and questioned the suspect without first issuing a Miranda warning. Any evidence collected because those confessions or statements may be inadmissible in court.

How Do You Invoke Your Miranda Rights?

Unless a law enforcement officer has probable cause to arrest you, reasonable suspicion search you, or has a warrant, you're under no obligation to answer police questions or even remain in contact with an inquisitive law enforcement officer. You can legally walk away from the crime scene.

Again, a police officer can legally question you or request search you, even without probable cause, so long as the police officer doesn’t suggest that you're legally compelled to comply—you can simply decline these requests.

invoke the right to remain silent

At a traffic stop, upon the law enforcement officer’s request, you must show the police officer your proof of insurance, driver’s license, and vehicle registration. Other than displaying the above documentation, you don't have to answer questions. You can simply say, “I’ll remain silent.”

If you invoke your right to remain silent during a traffic stop, the law enforcement officer can or can't take further action. The police officer, for instance, may ask you to step out of your motor vehicle and separate passengers from the driver. The police officer can ask questions; however, no person in this situation must answer the law enforcement officer.

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Regardless of your choice to remain silent, other evidence can support the officer's suspicion or probable cause. You can still be arrested, and if you choose to remain silent, you must invoke your right to remain silent with an obvious declaration.

What Should You Say to Invoke the Right to Remain Silent?

The 2013 Supreme Court decision raises crucial questions, such as whether it's reasonable to place the burden of asserting constitutional rights on regular people—many of whom don't understand the criminal procedure or constitutional law book. Criminal courts nationwide agree that crime suspects must make it clear that they're invoking their Miranda rights to avoid making damaging statements. That way, their subsequent silence won't be mentioned at trial.

What Happens if You Remain Silent?

As soon as you invoke your Fifth Amendment privilege, all police interrogation must stop. Your Fifth Amendment privilege isn't specific to the officer questioning you.  Thus, the police department can't simply switch interrogators and continue interrogating you. If the police officer continues interrogating you after you've clearly invoked your Fifth Amendment privilege, then this violates your right to remain silent and any subsequent statements you make can't be used against you in a criminal court.

Regardless of the situation, it’s advisable to invoke your Miranda rights and consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

A skilled criminal defense lawyer can protect your interests and rights. Also, they can advise you of your legal options and make sure that police officers don’t overstep their boundaries while questioning you, forcing you to give an incriminating response. An arrest is a scary situation, and even an innocent and articulate individual can give incriminating statements during custody interrogation.

If you're with criminal charges in Illinois, the experienced Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Ktenas Law are ready to help you. Please contact our law office today at (312) 756-8652 for a free and confidential consultation.