“You are under arrest. You have the right to be quiet. Whatever you say can be used against you in court.”
You have probably heard these words while watching your favorite crime movie or drama. But what exactly do they mean? At the most basic, the right to remain silent means just that: saying nothing during your arrest, questioning and arraignment. Under the U.S. judicial system, the court cannot find fault in your refusal to speak to the police during your arrest and questioning.
Here are two reasons why you would rather keep quiet when facing a criminal charge.
A slight variation in your story is all it takes to incriminate you
Giving the same account more than once the exact same way can be difficult even when you are telling the truth. This is especially true when you are under pressure.
It is not uncommon for the information you provide to the police during your arrest to contradict your testimony during the cross-examination when the prosecution will be paying full attention to every detail of your account.
Innocence notwithstanding, it is safer to give your side of the story only once; and if possible in the presence of your legal representative.
Talking to the police can never help you avoid arrest or conviction
Of course, the prosecution will attempt to gather as much information as possible from you during the interrogation. The same is true of the police during the arrest.
For instance, it is not uncommon for the police to ask if you have been out drinking during a DUI stop. Admitting to the officer that you only had one or two beers may seem like an innocent confession. However, the police can capture this admission in your arrest report and present it as evidence during your trial.
Knowing your legal options around your criminal charges can help you formulate an effective defense during your trial.