Am I Invoking My Miranda Rights If I Stay Silent?
Popular culture teaches us that remaining silent during police questioning will invoke your Miranda rights. But is this true? We explain more below.
Know Your Rights
The concept of a person’s right to remain silent arose from a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Miranda v. Arizona. The famous case involved Ernesto Miranda who was arrested by the Phoenix Police Department based on circumstantial evidence of rape and kidnapping. After he was interrogated for 2 hours, Miranda signed a confession typed up by the police department that said he was confessing through his own free will without threats or coercion.
The U.S. Supreme Court would eventually rule that the confession was inadmissible evidence because the police failed to inform Miranda of his Fourth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and to be represented by a lawyer.
However, what constitutes “silence” would come up in 2010 during the Berghuis v. Thompkins case. Thompkins had been informed of his Miranda rights before police interrogated him about a deadly shooting. Thompkins remained silent for more than three hours of interrogation until an officer asked him if he believed in God. Thompkins answered “yes” and was then asked if he prayed to God, to which he relied “yes.” When asked if he thought God would forgive him for the shooting, Thompkins replied “yes.”
The Supreme Court ruled that Thompkins failed to invoke his Miranda rights by not stating that he wished to remain silent or wanted a lawyer to be present during questioning. His answer to the last question was admitted into evidence and eventually led to his conviction being upheld by the court.
If you are taken into police custody, it is not a good idea to answer ANY questions. You should always invoke your Miranda rights by voicing your intention to remain silent and asking for an attorney to be present during police questioning.
Are you facing criminal charges? Do you think your civil rights were violated? Contact our Tucson team of attorneys to schedule a free consultation today.