People have a natural instinct to defend themselves when someone accuses them of wrongdoing. That often involves talking to the accusers. However, if you are facing criminal charges for homicide, you may want to rethink that instinctual response.
Saying anything could jeopardize your defense and your freedom. You already know that you don't have to say anything after an officer places you under arrest, but you may also want to remain silent even before that. Your rights under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are yours to exercise when you wish, and it may be a good idea to do so sooner rather than later. The only thing you should tell law enforcement officers is that you wish to invoke your right to remain silent.
How to invoke your Fifth Amendment rights
If you are like other Tennessee residents, you may think that just staying quiet will be enough to convey the fact that you don't want to answer questions. However, as is the case with most legal processes, in order to receive the benefits of your Constitutional rights, you need to expressly invoke them. In order to do so, it may help to keep the following information in mind:
- Don't use ambiguous words such as "I may," "I intend to," "I plan to" or "I should." These types of phrases leave room for misinterpretation, which could come back to haunt you later.
- Instead, let officers know that you want to remain silent.
- Affirmatively say that you are exercising your right to stay silent.
- Let officers know that you want to speak with an attorney first.
- Let officers know that the only person you want to speak with is an attorney.
Following these suggestions helps ensure that a "reasonable" officer would understand that you intend to remain silent. By the way, you do not have to reaffirm your intention to remain silent if another officer comes into the room. Police should know better than to try to make you think that invoking your rights only applies to one officer at a time. If you feel as though you need to make it clear to the next officer, simply repeat the same words so that no one can claim a misunderstanding occurred.
The Constitution and the courts do not require that you say certain words in order to make sure that everyone understands that you do not want to talk. The only requirement is that you ensure that whatever words you use make it perfectly clear to a reasonable police officer that you won't be talking. Considering the severity of the charges you face, you may want to consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.