Why You Should Not Talk to the Police Without a Lawyer

In American movies, you may have seen it emphasized that characters stopped by the police have the 'right to remain silent'.

This is justified in US law by the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment limits the powers of the government in criminal proceedings. This means that individuals cannot be forced to incriminate themselves or be subjected to accusations. Individuals have the right to refuse to testify against themselves and to remain silent. Likewise, witnesses have the right not to answer questions that, if answered, could incriminate them.

What are Miranda Rights?

The 1966 Miranda v. Arizona case was a landmark decision. As a result of the case, the Supreme Court ruled that suspects to be interrogated must be informed of their rights in advance. In this case, suspects would be read their basic rights such as 'to remain silent' and 'to have a lawyer' by the police, and they would be assured that they could exercise these rights if they wished.

These rights were named 'Miranda Rights' after the case. This advance warning by the police is also called a 'Miranda warning'. This allows the police officer to inform the suspect of his right to remain silent and prevent him from incriminating himself.

Does Not Talking to the Police Make You Look Guilty?

The clear answer is no. You should not talk to the police without consulting your lawyer. The police officer may ask you where you are from or how you entered the country. You are not obliged to answer any of these questions, including any of the questions the police may ask you. It is enough to show your ID (your driver's license, registration and insurance certificate if you were pulled over in a vehicle).

This is based on the 'Sixth Amendment' in US law. The provision on the right of suspects to counsel is also codified in this amendment.

'In all criminal proceedings, the accused shall have the right to a speedy and open trial by an impartial jury sitting in the state and county where the offense was committed, provided that they are informed of the charges against them. The accused may also have the assistance of counsel.'

The court also conducts a test to ensure that the lawyer is able to provide an effective defense. This test measures how effective the court-appointed lawyer is in influencing the client. If the lawyer fails this test, the proceedings will be retried.

If you are not a US citizen, you do not have to answer police questions about where you were born, whether you are a US citizen, or how you entered the country (the exception is police officers at borders and airports). Because California is a 'sanctuary state', you do not have to answer such questions asked by the police when you are in the state.

To learn more about the concept of 'Sanctuary State', you can watch our video on the subject.

Remember that you have the right not to answer police questions without a lawyer present and that this right is strictly protected under US law.

Why You Shouldn't Talk to the Police Without a Lawyer

The 'Miranda warning' given to you by the police consists of the following points:

  • You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions.
  • If you waive your right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in court.
  • You have the possibility to consult a lawyer before talking to the police. This lawyer can be present during the interrogation.
  • If you cannot afford the lawyer's fees, a lawyer can be appointed for you if you wish.
  • If you agree to answer questions without a lawyer present, you can stop and ask for a lawyer at any time from the moment you start answering questions.
  • If you understand the rights I have read, do you want to answer my questions without a lawyer?

These are all simplified versions of the rights set out in the US constitution. As stated here, any words spoken in self-defense in the absence of a lawyer can be used against you.

In short, you should not speak to the police in the event of interrogation without a lawyer present and without consulting your lawyer. Click here to contact New York and California licensed attorney Utku Galip Akçok.

Source: ACLU, law.cornell.edu

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