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You have the right to remain silent, but speak up to invoke it

Anyone in Arizona who has ever watched a crime television show or movie has heard the phrase, "You have the right to remain silent" when someone is arrested. You may already know that this is part of the Miranda warning given to people after police officers place them under arrest and before an interrogation begins.

If you are like most people, you probably think that simply staying quiet means that you want to exercise your right to remain silent. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. In fact, in accordance with a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, not saying anything could waive your right to remain silent.

So what should you do instead?

The vast majority of people given the Miranda Warning misunderstand how to invoke their right to remain silent. In order to make it abundantly clear to law enforcement officials that you are exercising your right, break your silence in order to say the following:

  • That you want to stay silent
  • That you are exercising your right to remain silent
  • That you want to an attorney first
  • That you only want to talk to an attorney

Be careful not to use ambiguous words like "intend," "plan to" or "may." These words could cause you trouble in court. Moreover, don't qualify your request for an attorney or your right to remain silent with words like "maybe." Take the time to choose your words carefully so that they cannot be twisted or misinterpreted in any way.

The more assertive your language is, the clearer you are about your intentions. The test is that a "reasonable" law enforcement officer would understand your intentions. You may also want to know that you don't have to wait for an officer to read you the Miranda Warning before invoking your right to remain silent.

What happens next?

Once you invoke your right to remain silent, law enforcement officials may not ask you any, or any further, questions. Advising one officer is enough. You do not have to reiterate your intentions to anyone else who may attempt to question you.

No matter what charges you face, you may want to exercise this right. Thereafter, you may want to make your next action contacting a criminal defense attorney. He or she can help protect this and all of your rights regardless of the situation. Whether you face charges for DUI, murder or anything in between, the U.S. Constitution seeks to protect you -- even from yourself.

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