One of the most famous of rights connected to criminal cases is the so called “right to remain silent.” It is so famous because of its 40 years of popular culture references. Whenever the police arrest someone on TV or in the movies, they immediately start the now memorized lines of “you have the right to remain silent…” But while these Miranda rights are a part of popular culture, they are not fully understood by everyone.
Keys to the Right to Remain Silent
When it comes to crimes in the state of Texas, DWI should not be treated any differently than any other crime. Once the police begin an investigation into a suspected DWI, they should follow the standards of the constitutional rights meant to protect people. One of those important rights is the right to remain silent.
The right to remain silent comes from the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which grants each of us the right to not be compelled to testify against ourselves. This means that the courts, police, and state cannot force someone to take the stand and testify at his or her own criminal trial. That is why you will sometimes hear about someone “pleading the Fifth.”
Over the last century, the Supreme Court has extended this right to include answering questions from the police in certain situations. For example, when the police make an arrest, they are not allowed to then force people to answer their questions. In fact, the police must first advise the person in custody that he or she does have the right to remain silent if the police are going to ask questions.
Invoking the Right to Remain Silent
This is a basic overview of the right to remain silent, and it should be this straightforward, but it is not. The problem with defining rights in this way is that there are situations that arise and do not fit into the existing pattern of defined rights. For example, questions have arisen about what it means for a person to actually exercise his or her right to remain silent. Can it happen by simply staying silent?
The courts have ruled on this and similar issues. According to Supreme Court precedent, an arrested suspect must invoke the right clearly and unequivocally. This rule has led courts to hold that an arrested suspect must basically say to the police: “yes, I am invoking my right to remain silent.” Only then are the police required to stop asking question and respect the right to remain silent.
Understanding and Defending Your Rights
If you are accused of DWI, you have rights. Those rights come from the U.S. Constitution, Texas Constitution, state and federal laws, and other court decisions. To successfully defend those rights it is key for you to understand them, and to have a legal team defending them. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm we focus our practice on defending the rights of those accused of DWI and look forward to doing it for you. Contact us today.
(image courtesy of Marcus Spiske)