Facing accusations of a violent crime can be frightening, confusing and stressful. Regardless of what happened, it is human nature to want to explain the events. However, it is usually in your best interest to remain silent.
You do not have to answer questions regarding the incident that resulted in the accusations against you. Like nearly everyone else here in South Carolina, you have most likely watched television shows and movies where a person is told that he or she has the right to remain silent, so you decide that is what you will do.
You have to say something in order to invoke this right
Simply refusing to answer questions is not enough to make sure that you do not unintentionally waive your right to remain silent. Instead, you will need to affirmatively let police know that you do not intend to speak with them. In order to make it clear, you could use sentences such as those listed below:
- I want to remain silent.
- I am exercising my right to remain silent.
- I only want to talk to an attorney.
- I will only talk to police after talking to an attorney first.
You do not have to use these exact words, but your words do need to be clear. Do not use sentences such as the following:
- Maybe I shouldn’t talk to you.
- I might want to talk to an attorney.
- I plan to exercise my right to remain silent.
These types of sentences include ambiguous language that police could misconstrue and may inadvertently waive your right to remain silent. The more affirmative language you use, the less room there is for confusion. In addition, you do not have to wait until police place you under arrest and read you your rights to invoke your right to remain silent. In fact, you should take advantage of it right away.
What comes next?
Until you have an attorney advocating for you, it is up to you to protect your rights. In addition to exercising your right to remain silent, you may want to exercise your right to an attorney sooner rather than later.
If you happened to make statements to the police prior to your arrest and prior to the reading of the Miranda warning, those statements may end up used against you in court. However, that does not necessarily mean that you will face a conviction. A thorough examination of the evidence, the circumstances and your interaction with police will help reveal your options for achieving the best possible outcome to the situation.