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The Right to Remain Silent Posted May 11, 2017

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You Have The Right But Do You Have The Ability

    It is a common saying in the criminal defense world that our clients may have the right to remain silent but very few of them have the ability. The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right of an individual accused of a crime to remain silent as an accused cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself in any criminal action. This right is absolute.  Although every citizen of the United States accused of a crime has the right to remain silent, very few seem to have the ability to exercise that right.  As an experienced criminal defense attorney too often I have seen an individual accused of a crime make statements to police, no matter how innocent, that have later been used against that individual at trial. 

    The problem is that we have been programmed since we were children to comply with law enforcement.  We have been taught to answer all questions and to not question the authority of cops.  While it i correct advice to obey the commands of a police officer it is also correct advice to exercise every one or your constitutional rights.  It is difficult to say no to a police officer but it is essential that an accused say no to any questioning and to request an attorney.  This is especially true if a person is accused of a major felony such as murder, rape or robbery.

    The right to remain silent is one that should always be exercised especially if someone is being questioned concerning a major felony such as murder, rape or robbery.  Chances are that if an individual is being questioned about a murder, rape or robbery, they are a suspect and should remain silent.  If an individual is being questioned about a major felony the officer doing the questioning will more likely than not “Mirandize” the subject.  That is the suspect will be read his rights which include the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during any questioning.  Use these rights, they are there for a reason.

    Many people will say “but I’m innocent, of course I’m going to tell my side of the story.” This is a mistake.  No one in the history of our justice system has ever talked themselves out of catching a charge unless they can prove they were in another country at the time the crime occurred.  The police can twist even the most innocent statement and make it seem like it is something that it is not.  Do not trust the police when they say you are not a suspect, that they won’t charge you if you just tell them what you know or that they can cut you a deal if you just own up to the crime.  This is not true, in fact the police have no authority to decide whether charges are ultimately filed or to cut a suspect a deal. The only people who have that power are the district attorneys. 

    The bottom line is that cops will, and are legally allowed to, lie to an accused in order to try an obtain a confession.  For example we handled a case where a 19 year old learning disabled young man was charged with murder.  In the interrogation video, where our client did  not remain silent and did not request an attorney, the detective conducting the interview convinced our client that if he was there then he was guilty.  This was not an accurate statement of the law and in fact was a complete lie, but since our client believed him he proceeded to “confess” to the murder.  This confession was enough to get him bound over and have to take his case before a jury, risking the rest of his life in prison.  Luckily we were able to show the jury that this was no confession at all and they acquitted our client of murder.  The simple fact is that had our client invoked his right to remain silent and refused to talk to the police they would have had no case against him.  This case ended well for our client but in many instances that is not the case. 

If you ever find yourself in a position where you are being questioned about a crime, especially murder, rape or robbery, politely decline to answer any questions and request an attorney immediately.  Call criminal attorneys Mark Cagle and Stephen Lee immediately to insure you receive the highest quality legal representation and that all your rights are protected.  Your very life could depend on it.

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