The Right to Remain Silent
- July 16, 2015
- Andrew Wehunt
- No comments
One of the biggest mistakes that I see from a client charged with a crime occurs long before they ever sit down in my office. Unfortunately, one of the most important rights provided to us in the United States Constitution, as well as the Constitution of the State of Georgia, is often forgotten by clients when dealing with law enforcement. The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution reads as follows:
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Now, after you have refreshed your memory by reading this provision of our Bill of Rights, it is important to be able to recall this information if you are ever in a situation when law enforcement is speaking with you or would like to speak with. You have most likely seen an example of this come up on television or your favorite “cop movie”, when the officer is arresting an individual and reads what are called Miranda Rights. In those fictional situations and in real life, people forget they have the ability to remain silent. I have heard many times people say “if I could just tell them my side of the story, they would understand” or “I just wanted to explain this is all a misunderstanding” with the belief that talking to law enforcement will help their situation. In my experience, I have learned and want to convey to you now, talking to law enforcement, when being investigated for a crime, generally will not have any positive benefits to your case. You will benefit more by not speaking to law enforcement and putting yourself in the unfortunate situation of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.
I also want to encourage you to never go speak with law enforcement, or speak with them if you are not in custody, without the assistance of an experienced criminal attorney. If you ever receive a phone call or a knock on the door from law enforcement asking that you come speak with them because they want to “get your side of the story”, the first thing you should do is call your attorney. If you are being questioned by law enforcement regarding a criminal act, it typically means they believe you did something that violated the law. If you are not able to retain an attorney, politely tell the officer that you do not wish to speak to them without representation. Whether you speak with law enforcement or exercise your 5th Amendment rights will likely not determine if you are charged with a crime. However, if you exercise your right to remain silent, they will definitely have less evidence when they attempt to proceed with your case.
We are blessed to live a great country that has protections guaranteed to us by law. Those automatic rights are only useful if you know what they are and when to use them. The right to remain silent is worth every word NOT spoken!
The Wehunt Law Firm would be proud and honored to represent your interest.