You probably understand that police must read you your rights after they place you under arrest and before they question you. These are your Miranda rights, a nickname that refers to the U.S. Supreme Court case that decided some of the rules for police interrogation. The rights clarified in a Miranda warning can protect you from self-incrimination, but you must know how to exercise those rights.
Law enforcement can be very savvy when it comes to obtaining the evidence they need to bring criminal charges. Often, that evidence comes from the mouths of those who do not fully understand their rights. Do you know when Ohio authorities may use your words against you? Do you understand how to invoke your right to remain silent?
What are my rights?
Your right to refuse to answer questions from investigators comes from the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Before police can question you about a criminal matter in which they suspect your involvement, they must remind you that you have the right to refuse to answer any questions and that anything you say during the interrogation may become evidence against you if your case goes to court.
However, police will not assume you will invoke your Fifth Amendment rights. Even if you sit silently for hours while they interrogate you, police may continue to ask you questions. As soon as you speak, investigators will assume you have opted to waive your rights.
How do I invoke my rights?
In order to make it clear to law enforcement that you do not intend to answer questions, leave no doubt that you are invoking your right to remain silent. Simply remaining silent is not enough. You should firmly state that you are invoking your rights so that any reasonable officer has no doubt. For example, you may say, “I am exercising my right to remain silent.” Uncertain phrasing like “I think I should probably not answer any questions” may allow officers to interpret that you have not invoked your rights.
It is critical that you remain silent from the moment you invoke your rights until you consult with an attorney about your options. This includes a situation where police return after hours or even weeks to question you again. Reminding officers that you intend to remain silent according to your rights and then following your attorney’s advice is a wise course of action to avoid self-incrimination.