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Why must a suspect invoke the right to remain silent?

Individuals placed under arrest in Virginia may find themselves upset, scared and nervous. Such anxiety may lead them to make mistakes, such as not paying attention to their Miranda rights. One such right centers on the right to remain silent. To continue talking without invoking this right could result in making statements that strengthen a prosecutor’s case.

Clearly and unequivocally invoking the right to remain silent

Giving the police the “silent treatment” and saying nothing does not definitively invoke the right to remain silent. Therefore, someone who goes quiet and then speaks shortly after may incriminate him or herself. Stating without any ambiguity, “I invoke my right to remain silent, and I wish to speak to my attorney” reflects clear language establishing the suspect’s desire to take advantage of his or her constitutional rights.

Be aware that stating “I might wish to speak to an attorney” or “I prefer to remain silent” might not necessarily invoke these rights. The ambiguous nature of the statements could create problems. Namely, the suspect’s comments could be admissible in court.

Not understanding the seriousness of remaining silent

When the police question someone, they may seek evidence by nudging self-incrimination. In other words, the police might attempt to get the person to admit guilt. Unfortunately, a person being questioned may attempt to talk their way out of a situation only to say something incriminating. Speaking to the police without a defense attorney present could make a situation far worse.

If the police force statements after someone invokes the right to remain silent or the police fail to read them their Miranda rights, the person’s statements might not be admissible. A criminal defense attorney may attempt to get such statements suppressed. The attorney might look at other potential rights violations to determine if other evidence was illegally obtained.