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When You Should Use Your “Right to Remain Silent”

Often, common people assume that the law is so much above them that they start feeling that they can do nothing when confronted in a situation where they would have to use legal means to manoeuvre out. Such situations could be when stopped by the traffic police or when they have witnessed a crime and are asked to make a statement without proper certification. The law can corner anyone anytime, with just one toe out of line. But what people do not realize is that they have a highly privileged right – ‘right to remain silent’. This right comes under the Fifth Amendment which entails that people have the right to decline to make comments or answer questions under the threat of a judicially-imposed punishment. If people have a logical belief that their speaking or making a statement may incriminate them in the crime, then they can choose to not comment. This silence cannot be used against the person by the prosecution to gain any advantage in the case.

Under this right every person has:

  1. The right to consult with a lawyer

  2. The right to bring the lawyer to their questioning

  3. The right to be represented by a lawyer even if they cannot afford one

  4. The right to stop a police interview if they do not want to answer any further questions

  5. The right to calmly leave if not arrested

  6. The right to access all the above rights regardless of immigration or citizenship status.

Exercise your right to remain silent in the following situations:

  1. When you have been stopped on the road while driving by a policeman. You have to stop the car and show the officer all necessary papers, but you also have the right to refuse to answer his questions.

  2. If you are requested to discuss your immigration status, you have the right to refuse to comment. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether or not you are a U.S citizen or how you came to the U.S.

  3. If contacted by the FBI for any reason, you have the right to refuse to comment unless you speak to your lawyer first or in the presence of the lawyer.

  4. If you are arrested and you believe that the arrest is unfair, do not resist it, but you have the right to remain silent unless you speak with a trustworthy lawyer. You also have the right to a local phone call, without the police listening in to your call.

  5. If you feel that your rights have been violated or you have been on the receiving end of any kind of misbehaviour, you can remain silent. But remember to make a note of any and all activity, and that can later be used to add proof to your statement which you may make in the presence of a lawyer, or when you are filing an official complaint.

Everyone has heard the dialogue from a cop to any person they arrest, especially in TV shows – “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” If that is the case then it makes perfect sense to use the right to remain silent to protect yourself from any incriminating charges apart from any mistake you might have made.


  1. http://www.volokh.com/2013/06/17/do-you-have-a-right-to-remain-silent-thoughts-on-the-sleeper-criminal-procedure-case-of-the-term-salinas-v-texas/
  2. http://freedomoutpost.com/2013/06/supreme-court-silence-can-be-used-against-you/
  3. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/arrests-interrogations-faq-29076-4.html
  4. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/when-how-invoke-your-right-silence.html
  5. https://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform-immigrants-rights-racial-justice/know-your-rights-what-do-if-you

Written by William Fontenot, a Utah criminal defense lawyer known locally as Fontenot Law, P.C. Visit the firms website at http://www.utahlawpro.com

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