As an experienced Boston criminal lawyer, I have represented many people who knew they had the right to remain silent during a police interrogation, but failed to exercise that right because they were scared or intimidated, or because they just didn’t know how or when to do so. In previous posts I have explained, in general terms, the nature and scope of your right to remain silent; here, I will discuss practical aspects of invoking that right.
How do you invoke your right to remain silent?
When you are taken into custody, you will likely be advised of your right to remain silent and be given the opportunity to invoke that right or waive it, before questioning begins. Under Massachusetts law, you may invoke your right to remain silent in any manner and at any time during the interrogation. Thus, even if you initially waive that right and agree to answer questions, you can decide, at any time, to stop talking. In that case, you must unambiguously announce your desire to remain silent. No special words are required, but you must make your choice to stop talking known with the “utmost clarity.”
If, on the other hand, you have not previously waived your right to remain silent, then the high standard of “utmost clarity” is not required. In fact, in the pre-waiver context, you do not even have to speak to invoke your right to remain silent; you can make your desire known by your words or by your conduct. For example, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that shaking your head “no” in response to a direct question from an interrogating officer (e.g., “So you don’t want to speak?”) is sufficient to invoke the right to remain silent.
What happens (or should happen) after you choose to be silent?
Once you have invoked your right to remain silent, it must be “scrupulously honored” by law enforcement. This means that questioning must immediately stop. The interrogation may resume only after a significant amount of time has passed, and you have again been advised of your right to remain silent; the subsequent interrogation must be related to a different crime – one that was not the subject of the earlier interrogation.
Contact Boston Criminal Lawyer, Kevin J. Mahoney
If law enforcement did not scrupulously honor your decision to remain silent, any statements you made after that may be inadmissible. An experienced Boston criminal defense lawyer can review your situation and evaluate your legal options. To schedule a free initial consultation with me, please call 617-492-0055.
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