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The right to remain silent means that at any point you can invoke that right and refuse to answer questions from police officers, detectives, or other prosecutorial representatives.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, however, limited that right in the case of Berghuis v. Thompkins. Van Chester Thompkins was convicted of murder but challenged the conviction, alleging that his confession should have been suppressed because his right to remain silent was violated. The Court, in a 5-4 decision ruled that by failing to specifically state that he did not wish to speak to police, or that he was invoking his right to remain silent, he had waived that right.  While many legal scholars disagreed with the rationale of this decision, what it means in practice is that knowing how and when to assert your rights is now even more important to protect them from being eroded.

But Shouldn’t I Cooperate with the Police?

Won’t that show them I don’t have anything to hide?  The answer to both questions is almost unequivocally, “no.”  If police are questioning you, it means they likely suspect you have committed a crime.  If the police detained you, it usually means they already have enough evidence to justify your arrest.

What Can You Do You if You’re Question by the Police?

If the police are talking to you in an attempt to gather evidence against you.  And they are allowed to, and often do, lie to you to obtain that evidence. So your best bet is simply, but specifically, to state the following:”I am invoking my right to remain silent, and I want a lawyer.”

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