Right to Silence

When speaking with law enforcement, remember that anything you say can be used against you in trial. If you feel uncomfortable speaking with the police, you can invoke the 5th Amendment and exercise your right to remain silent.


This guarantee is one of your Miranda rights, which police are required to clarify before taking you into custody. A Miranda warning is intended to help prevent self-incrimination and may sound like this:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”

When in police custody, you must waive your Miranda rights before law enforcement can question you. If you would like to exercise your rights instead, you must make a clear statement expressing your intent to do so. Consider the following examples:

“I am exercising my right to remain silent.”

“I will not speak until my lawyer is present.”

“I would like to invoke my Miranda rights.”

If you have approached law enforcement voluntarily, the police are not required to clarify your Miranda rights before speaking with you. However, you can invoke the 5th Amendment (Rights of Persons) and exercise your right to remain silent at any time.

Questions & Answers

The Fifth Amendment protects me from self incrimination. Does that mean that if a police officer asks me questions, I don’t have to answer them?

  • No, generally you do not have to speak to law enforcement unless you are exercising a privilege like driving. You’d have to identify yourself and proof of insurance if you were driving. 

Sometimes the police may ask me to speak with them voluntarily, when does consent turn into coercion?

  • That’s a tough question because the answer depends on whether or not the speaker reasonably believes they are not free to leave. 

Do I have to speak to the police if I’m on probation or parole?

  • Yes, you have to identify yourself and oftentimes consent to searches of your person and maybe your residence.