Police Interrogation And The Privilege Against Self Incrimination

The U.S. constitution’s fifth amendment protects a person from self-incrimination. The amendment states that no one “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This means that a person has the right to remain silent during police interrogation.

According to the courts, the right to remain silent was initiated to help a person avoid the “cruel trilemma” of contempt, perjury, and self-incrimination. This is because a person who is forced to answer questions during a police interrogation may choose to;

  • Refuse to respond and be held in contempt of court
  • Lie, and thereby commit perjury or
  • Provide evidence (outright admission) that might lead to a conviction

What To Expect in a Police Interrogation

Once you have been placed under arrest in Missouri, the law enforcement officer should inform you of your rights to remain silent. Failure for the police to notify you of your Miranda rights, then any statements that you give, cannot be admissible in a court of law.

The Miranda laws were named after a 1963 United States Supreme Court Case Miranda v. Arizona. In this case, Ernesto Miranda, the defendant, was arrested and interrogated about a kidnapping and rape that occurred ten days earlier. After the questioning, Miranda admitted to the case and signed a confession to the charge. However, Miranda had not been told about his right to remain silent, and that anything he said would be used against him in court.

After Miranda was convicted, his attorney appealed on the grounds that his client had not been informed of his rights before questioning and that the confession was not voluntary. The court overruled their initial decision and ruled that a confession would not be used in court as evidence unless a suspect has been informed of his rights and decides to waive them. From then henceforth it is a requirement of the law for police officers to recite the Miranda rights to suspects before interrogation.

When can you claim your privilege against self-incrimination?

Suspects can assert their fifth amendment privilege in both criminal and civil proceedings. These proceedings can include; trials, administrative law proceedings, depositions, as well as investigatory proceedings.

You can claim your right against self-incrimination by stating,” I invoke my right to remain silent, and I wish to speak to my lawyer.”Once you have invoked your right to remain silent, a police officer should stop interrogating you immediately.

Can you waive your Fifth Amendment Rights?

After invoking your Miranda rights, make sure to stay silent throughout. You shouldn’t talk about anything that the prosecutor can use to lay evidence against you. You may answer some questions like what is your name and address.

It is essential to note that invoking your rights will only stop the police from questioning you as long as you stay silent. If you make any statement after that, then you can waive your rights, and the statements can be used against you in court.

What Happens during Police Interrogation

In case you choose to continue with the interrogation, the police officer will use different methods and ask you questions to ascertain if you are guilty. Interrogating officers use various tactics to obtain confessions. They include; good cop bad cop, Reid technique, lies, and Cognitive Interview.

Some of these techniques can lead innocent people, especially minors, to plead guilty for charges they did not commit. It is, therefore, essential to have a defense counsel to advice you on how best to handle police interrogations.

If you have been interrogated by a police officer, you need to consult a criminal defense attorney to help you understand your rights. Contact KC defense counsel to help you with your case.