“If anything you say can and will be used against you . . . then you don’t say anything.”
We hear, but we do not always listen. So real credit goes to our client who heard, listened, actually understood the Miranda warnings, and chose to say nothing. You can read more here about the Constitutional rights referenced in the Miranda warnings. Or call us directly to discuss how our team of defense attorneys can help with your Utah criminal case.
Custodial Interrogations – Miranda Warnings Required
Before engaging in a custodial interrogation (i.e., questioning or interviewing a suspect who is under arrest), police are required to notify that person of their rights under the Constitution. Specifically, police must notify the person of their right to remain silent (privilege against self incrimination) and their right to have an attorney present during any interrogation or questioning.
The Miranda warnings given by police give further detail of these rights. Perhaps the most significant point made in the warnings is that “anything you say can and will be used against you.”
Understanding the Miranda Warnings
A previous client was arrested by police who wanted to then begin questioning him in regard to his activities. When police told him that anything he said would be used against him, he understood. In response to this warning, the client politely but firmly told the police, “If anything I say will be used against me, then I don’t think I should say anything at all.”
Compare this part of the Miranda warnings to a person who asks you to give him a baseball bat so that he can beat you with it. You don’t have to give him the baseball bat. But if you do, he is telling you that he will hit you with it. Why would you ever want to give him the bat?
Police giving the Miranda warnings are required to tell you that anything you say “can and will be used against you.” You don’t have to say anything*, and if you do it will be used against you. So why would you ever want to say anything?
Why do people talk?
When considering the question in the abstract, the answer may seem obvious. Don’t say anything if the police are just going to use it against you. But it is harder to process information and make rationale decisions when you are the one being handcuffed, arrested, and pushed into a police car.
There is a natural human desire to be understood. We want to tell our side of the story. We believe that if we are understood, things will be better. If you combine this desire to be understood with the confusion and chaos that is often involved in the arrest process, it is easy to forget to stop and think before talking.
Should you say anything? If so, should you say it now? Or should you wait, talk to a lawyer, and then determine the best time and place to have your side of the story told.
In almost every circumstance, you will be better off waiting to tell your side of the story. Information provided by police during an interrogation is not always accurate or complete. This can confuse the person being questioned and lead to misunderstandings over what the person is really trying to say. Police records and officers’ memories are not always accurate or complete. This can lead to bad information being relied on by prosecutors, judges, and juries. Without having a full understanding of the facts and how the law applies to those facts, the person being questioned may inadvertently provide information that is intended to clarify innocence but is instead used by police to infer guilt.
Think First – Talk Later
It can be tough to slow down and take the time to think about what is going to be in your best interest – especially when there are flashing lights and officers with guns jostling and pushing, your arms are being pulled behind your back and your hands placed in handcuffs, and you seem to be losing all control over what is happening.
But take a deep breath and take just a few moments to think. Do you really need to tell your side of the story right now? Or will you be better off waiting, talking to a lawyers, and then formulating the best strategy for defending your case?
Hats off to our client who took the time to think and really understand what the Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination means. “If anything I say will be used AGAINST me, then I don’t think I should say anything at all.”
*Note: Utah law does require that a person give their name to a police officer if asked as part of a criminal investigation. Beyond that single piece of information, the Fifth Amendment guarantees the individual right to remain silent and say nothing.