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How to assert your right to remain silent

The first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution confer a variety of rights on U.S citizens. While you probably know about your rights to speak freely, practice your religion and carry a firearm, you have also probably heard about your right to remain silent during police questioning. You may not, though, understand how to assert this right effectively. 

Law enforcement personnel can be intimidating. Nonetheless, if you are a suspect in a criminal matter, what you say and do not say may have a tremendous effect on your case's outcome. Before submitting to a detective’s interrogation, you may want to think about exercising your right to remain silent. Here are some options for doing so: 

1. Use specific words 

While detectives receive extensive training on respecting criminal suspects' civil rights, you may want to remove any chances of miscommunication or misunderstanding. If you want to stay quiet, telling the interrogator, “I am choosing to exercise my right to remain silent” is a clear way to remove ambiguity. 

2. Say nothing 

If you say nothing, officers cannot use your statements against you. As such, remaining quiet works. Still, this can be tough. Until officers know that you do not want to cooperate, they may continue to question you. They may also ask seemingly innocent questions that lead to incriminating statements. Even worse, if you start talking after extended periods of silence, officers may use what you say against you in a court of law. 

3. Request legal counsel 

Not only do you have a right to remain silent, but you also have a right to an attorney for most criminal matters. Asking for a lawyer should make detectives stop questioning you until you have spoken to legal counsel. Still, it is never a bad idea to affirmatively assert both rights. 

Even though they may have other evidence of your guilt, you do not want prosecutors to use your words against you in a criminal proceeding. Fortunately, the U.S. Constitution allows you to stay silent. By understanding how to assert this legal protection, you may better position yourself for a successful criminal defense.

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