The Importance of Remaining Silent

Man with finger over mouth

If you ask anyone walking down the street what Miranda warnings are, nine times out of ten, you will encounter someone who can recite them word for word. Since Miranda warnings are often recited on TV shows like Cops and Law & Order, people every day are exposed to them. Miranda warnings are one of the most important rights you are given by the police when you are in custody and you should always assert your right to remain silent.

What are Miranda Warnings?

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

Everyone in police custody has the right to remain silent. The question becomes whether they have the ability to remain silent. Most people who are questioned by police have an overwhelming need to talk to the police whether to exonerate themselves or to explain their side of the story. There is this tendency for people to think if they cooperate with the police and explain what happened that the police will realize they have the wrong person and let them go. That is not how our system works. The police do not make credibility determinations. If Jane says you punched her, and you say you didn’t, the police are still going to arrest you. If Jane says you strangled her, and you say you were just defending yourself because she hit you first, you will still be arrested but Jane may be arrested too. The job of the police is to investigate an allegation by interviewing the witnesses including the victim and suspect, collecting evidence, and then giving it to the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute the case. Don’t make it easier for the prosecutor to convict you by giving your version of events to the police.

The reason it is so important to remain silent is because anything you say can and will be used against you in court. Every word you say will be written in a police report and possibly recorded on audio or video to be played at trial. As attorneys, we repeatedly see the same two kinds of cases. There are cases where the person has already made a statement to police, ends up being charged with a crime, and then hires an attorney. There are other cases where the police contact a suspect for a statement, the suspect contacts an attorney, and as a result of their attorney’s advice the suspect declines to answer the police officer’s questions. Once you make a statement to the police admitting you committed a crime, it becomes a much more difficult case to win. If you want the best chance of winning your case, do not talk to the police.

We have had cases dismissed and have won cases at trial because our client remained silent and did not answer any questions. For example, we represented a man accused of possession of child pornography. The evidence was circumstantial and could have been tied to any number of individuals living in the home. Because the man did not give a statement to the police, the prosecutor did not have enough evidence to prove the man was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and had no choice but to dismiss the case. The man won his case because he didn’t talk to the police.

The right to remain silent is a fundamental right and should always be exercised. If the police have determined that you are going to be charged, there is nothing you can say or do that will change their mind. The best way to help yourself is to remain silent and hire an experienced attorney. At Sweeney & Associates, LLC our attorneys have extensive training and experience. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime contact us at Sweeney & Associates today for a free consultation. We can be reached at (617) 300-0212 or

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