A Miranda How-to Guide: Remaining silent isn't enough, Know the Magic Words

If you find yourself in a room being questioned by the Police, you are in a very bad place.

Talking to the Police is not going to get you out of the room.  The police may say that you can end the questioning and the arrest if you just would be willing to answer a couple of questions.  This is usually not true.  The police may hold you even if you deny that you had any involvement in the crime.  If you confess, you are definitely not going to be released. I have a case where my client denied ever being near the crime scene in his life and the police thought his denial was too strong and thus more evidence of guilt. 

At some point in most interrogations, the police read a person their Miranda. rights.  In many cases, they present the accused with a form that lists each Miranda right, in which a person has to initial in multiple places and sign that they are waiving their right to remain silent.  My advice is to always assert your right to remain silent and ask for an attorney. 

Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court has complicated this task.  In Salinas v. Texas,  the court held that a person upon hearing that he has a right to remain silent, may be criticized for his silence or actions while being questioned.  In another case,  Berghuis v. Thompkins, the court held that merely remaining silent is not an invocation of silence but rather a person has to affirmatively say the right words.  Near the beginning of his opinion, Justice Samuel Alito writes this sentence, “no ritualistic formula is necessary in order to invoke the privilege,” Quinn v. United States, 349 U. S. 155, 164 (1955), a witness does not do so by simply standing mute.  I write this blog in order to address Justice Alito's dishonesty.  The courts is saying you need to know some magic words and I am going to tell you what they are.

This Slate article rightly criticizes these two decisions for their erosion of individual rights, flouting of the constitution, and blessing of a "by any means necessary" mentality that is deployed by police officers.

In light of these Supreme Court decisions, my advice to anyone interrogated by the police is to do the following.

  1. Tell the Police in a loud voice, "I want to talk to my lawyer. I am remaining silent."
  2. Look at the camera in the room or the two way mirror and keep repeating "I want to talk to my lawyer. I am remaining silent."
  3. Don't sign anything the Police give you during an interrogation
  4. Just keep repeating, "I want to talk to my lawyer. I am remaining silent" until a lawyer appears or they stop asking you questions. 

Just keep repeating the same thing over and over.  I have watched videos of my clients being interrogated.  I have been in the room during interrogations.  Nothing is ever better than repeating "I want to talk to my lawyer. I am remaining silent" over and over again.  The Police will eventually give up.

 The police are not looking for the person who did it, they are looking for evidence to prove you did it.  Don't talk.