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To speak or not to speak: what to know about staying silent

If you are arrested, under investigation for a crime, questioned or interviewed by police, there is no doubt that you are in a scary situation. You can be face-to-face with intimidating law enforcement agents who seem to know an awful lot about you and your behaviors. They use various tactics and seem to alternate between being understanding and being ready to explode. It's an intimidating and frightening experience for any person, regardless of if they've done something wrong.

While it can be difficult, it is crucial to try and stay calm and understand your rights in this situation. Unfortunately, too many people are confused or misinformed about what they can and cannot do; what they should or should not say. For instance, you may know that you "have the right to remain silent" after you have been read your Miranda rights, but your silence before then can say a lot more than you think.

Last year, NPR ranĀ this report on various court decisions that have impacted what happens when a person stays silent. In at least a couple cases, people suspected of a crime decided to stay silent in the presence of authorities. Later, when the cases went to trial, prosecutors actually used that silence to argue that it was a sign of indifference or guilt.

This is why it can be so vital to ask to speak with an attorney as soon as possible before answering questions. The fact is that many people feel like they have nothing to hide from anyone or that they can just stay silent when speaking with police, so they decide there's no harm in making choices without a legal representative.

However, this can prove to have costly and incriminating consequences for people, including those who are in a situation involving allegations of sexual misconduct. Having a legal representative by your side can help you answer the questions necessary without violating your Fifth Amendment rights.

In the event that you are in the position of speaking with authorities about an alleged crime, it can be crucial that you understand your options and rights by speaking with an attorney sooner, rather than later.

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Attorney Warren Lindsey has been awarded the following credentials:

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