The fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects your right to self-incrimination, which means providing information that proves your guilt.
You’ve probably heard the term “you have the right to remain silent” used in movies, but you must understand how this right actively protects you and what to do if law enforcement officers approach you with questions.
What does it mean to remain silent?
If the police ask you questions about your involvement in a crime, you do not need to answer them. When remaining silent, you should still provide police with basic information such as your address, name and other identifying information. Additionally, remaining silent is not resisting if you physically cooperate with officers.
Why is remaining silent a good idea?
Law enforcement does not need to inform you of your right to remain silent unless they intend to arrest you and question you about a crime. However, officers might still use what you say to them against you at a later time, even if they do not detain you.
While your instincts may be to tell the law enforcement everything you know because you are innocent, they may not believe you. If investigators want to speak to you about your actions, they already consider you a person of interest. You do not want to give police an opportunity to misuse what you say, so it is best to remain silent in this situation.
Evoking your right to silence does not insinuate guilt, but it does prevent anyone from using your words against you.