Criminal Arrests and Interrogations FAQ

What's the best way to assert my right to remain silent if I am being questioned by the police?

If you’re under arrest and you wisely choose to remain silent at least until you have a chance to consult a lawyer, you should tell that to your interrogator. If you just keep your mouth shut and say nothing, the police can legally continue to question you, and if they do, you might eventually say something you later regret. (Somewhat ironically, the general rule is that you have to say something to claim your right to remain silent.) However, you don't have to use a precise set of words to invoke your Miranda rights. After an officer gives you a Miranda warning, you can stop the questioning by saying something like:

  • “I don’t want to talk to you; I want to talk to an attorney.”
  • “I refuse to speak with you.”
  • “I invoke my privilege against self-incrimination.”
  • “I claim my Miranda rights.”

In general, if the police continue to question you after you have asserted your right to remain silent, they have violated Miranda. (But see Police Questioning After the Suspect Claims Miranda, which discusses differences between invoking the right to silence and the right to counsel.) As a result, anything you say after that point will not be admissible as evidence of guilt at your trial. (See Statements Obtained When Police Violate Miranda for more, including exceptions.)

For more on the right to silence after arrest, see Miranda and Post-Arrest Silence. And for information on invoking the Fifth Amendment when the defendant isn’t in custody, see Invoking Your Right to Remain Silent.

For a full explanation of the law—including how it applies to your situation and how it might vary in your state—consult an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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