Police have just arrested you, putting you in handcuffs and driving you to the police station for processing. At some point during this stressful moment, an officer informs you of your right to remain silent and asks if you understand. But despite the explanation, do you fully understand your right to silence?

If you plan on fighting your charges, you don’t want to give police evidence. Invoking your right to remain silent may help you prevent revealing information that works against you in court. But what do you need to know about staying silent during an interrogation?

Police must let you know your rights

After a landmark case in U.S. history, lawmakers created the Miranda warning to ensure American citizens know their rights during an arrest. Before asking questions, police must read the warning, explaining that the person has a right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer. They must also confirm that the person understands what they said.

Once the rights are read and understood, anything said in interrogation can become evidence.

You must invoke your right to silence

However, police can also use silence against you. If officers start questioning you and you just don’t answer, they may try to say that your lack of defense means you have something to hide

To invoke your rights, you need to let the police know that you would like to remain silent or that you would like a lawyer. Once you clearly let them know you don’t wish to speak, they cannot ask any more questions and must allow you to consult with your lawyer.

You don’t have to give the police possible evidence

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from incriminating yourself in a criminal case. The right to remain silent is an important way for you to avoid giving police evidence to use against you. It is also important to remember that what you say to police before an arrest can also come up in court, so you may want to say as little as possible if you think the police have any suspicions of wrongdoing.

Understanding how silence works can help you defend against any serious criminal charges.