Thanks to a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court decision, officers must inform individuals of their Fifth Amendment rights before beginning a custodial interrogation. Your Miranda rights include both the right to remain silent and the right to have legal counsel.
Prosecutors may use any statements you make to officers against you to secure a conviction or to induce you into accepting a plea deal. Consequently, if officers are questioning you in connection with a criminal investigation, it is often advisable to invoke your right to remain silent.
Your words matter
If you simply stay silent, officers may not use your words against you. Unfortunately, being quiet is probably not the most effective way to assert your right to remain silent. After all, officers may continue to ask questions until you crack.
Accordingly, you may want to use unambiguous language to notify officers of your intentions. Telling them you are exercising your right to remain silent removes any doubt. Then, after making your intentions clear, you must stop talking to avoid waiving your legal rights.
An attorney may help
Custodial interrogations are intimidating by design. If you are not comfortable telling officers you do not want to cooperate, you can ask for an attorney before saying anything or at any time during questioning. When you do, officers should stop interrogating you until an attorney is present.
Officers avoid poisonous fruit
Most officers understand the importance of respecting your Fifth Amendment rights. If officers violate these rights by continuing to question you or denying you legal counsel, any information or evidence they obtain may be inadmissible in court.
The fruit of the poisonous doctrine prevents prosecutors from using illegally obtained evidence against criminal suspects. Therefore, if you believe officers violated your rights when questioning you, you may have an effective defense strategy.