“I was wrongly convicted of murder. I spent nearly 17 years in prison fighting my case. When I finally won a new trial, I chose Greg Robey to be a part of my defense team. He found an FBI agent who had worked on the case in the 1980s, along with critical pieces of evidence that we thought were long lost. After a long and very hard-fought trial, I was found Not Guilty of all charges. I owe my freedom to Greg Robey and my defense team.” -R.R., Ravenna, Ohio
The right of to remain silent after being arrested or accused of a crime has been a vital component of the U.S. legal system since the Puritans fled to the shores of North America in search of religious freedom. This right is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. Although most people are familiar with the phrase pleading the Fifth, there are still many misconceptions about what it means to avoid self-incrimination — and many people make the mistake of giving too much information to the police during an interrogation or after they are arrested.
Back in the seventeenth century, English Puritans were questioned about their religious beliefs, often with the help of an expert in the arts of torture. If they refused to answer the questions put to them, they were assumed to be guilty. These experiences led many of the first American colonies to establish the right against coerced self-incrimination, a right that was included in the Bill of Rights. Several centuries later, the Supreme Court made it obligatory for law enforcement to inform people of their constitutional rights when they are arrested. Police officers are required to read the Miranda warning that explains the right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel.
If you are arrested, take advantage of your constitutional rights. Do not provide any information other than the basics like your name and address. This also applies is you are being questioned but have not been arrested. Invoke your right to legal counsel — and if you are facing criminal charges, make sure you contact an experienced attorney who can provide a strong defense in your case. Remaining silent after an arrest is not an admission of guilt. It is simply prudent.