Avoid self-incrimination by exercising your right to silence

On Behalf of | May 2, 2021 | Criminal Defense

You have the right to fair treatment in the U.S. legal system, and that includes encounters with law enforcement. The prosecutor can use anything you say to an officer as evidence against you in court, so it is important to limit what you say. The law protects you from accidentally incriminating yourself.

Here is the ACLU’s guide to your rights when a police officer stops you.

Remaining silent

You may be aware of your Miranda Right that allows you to refuse to answer questions from law enforcement. This does not prevent the officer from asking questions after you say that you are exercising your right to remain silent. However, it does allow you to respectfully and legally disengage from further conversation.

This right is not just for an encounter with an officer on the street, around town or at your residence. You can also remain silent if an officer arrests you and takes you in for questioning. Until you have legal counsel that can assess your situation and help you determine what may or may not be incriminating, you do not have to speak.

Providing information

In certain situations, you may need to provide an officer with some information. Wisconsin statutes say that the officer has the right to stop someone in a public place if it is reasonable to suspect that the person either just committed or is about to commit a crime. An officer must provide identification and then may demand the person’s name, address and explanation of his or her current conduct.

If you find yourself in this situation, you do not need to give more than these details. The officer cannot detain you there indefinitely if there is no further evidence that you have broken the law. Remaining silent is not evidence of wrongdoing.