person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous
crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except
in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia,
when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall
any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy
of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to
be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty,
or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property
be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The right to
remain silent is a fundamental principle of liberty. It gives American
citizens better privacy. The burden falls on the accuser to build
a case against a person. If the accuser does not meet that burden,
the accused is free to go. The accused never, ever, is required
to furnish any evidence or testimony against himself. In other words,
liberty requires that you have the right to remain silent.
If the accused
were forced to produce evidence that they did not commit an act,
innocent people would be forced to prove a negative. Proving a negative
is usually far more difficult, if not impossible to do. Anyone without
an alibi would be convicted. No one could afford to spend even one
minute alone in that kind of world. The right to remain silent preserves
a functioning system of justice and a functioning society.
The fifth amendment
to the United States Constitution does not say explicitly that you
have the right to remain silent. It does say that you do not have
to be a witness against yourself. This means that you cannot be
compelled to reveal information that might implicate you in a crime.
The Right To Remain Silent Applies To Innocent People Too
citizens are particularly at risk because they think that the truth
will set them free. They feel compelled that if they just tell their
story they will be exonerated. This is not true. Numerous opportunities
abound for an innocent individual to become entrapped by speaking
often overstate or understate some fact while vigorously defending
their innocence. This makes their testimony technically untrue,
or at least a prosecutor can make it look like its untrue.
Once attention is called to the misstatement, the rest of the testimony
is suspect because of the one untruth. This suspicion may be sufficient
to land the innocent person in jail.
The Right To Remain Silent: Honest Mistakes
may make an innocent mistake and not remember correctly what you
said. If you claim you told the cop one thing, and he claims you
said another, the police officer will be believed over an accused
any day. If you had said nothing, the cop would have to flat out
lie that you said something. That is not likely to happen.
There may be
a witness that will mistakenly identify you as the suspect in a
crime. If you claim one thing that is absolutely true, there may
be a solid witness that is honestly mistaken about seeing you. If
your testimony contradicts theirs, the witness will be believed
instead of the accused. If you dont say anything, there will
be nothing to contradict and the honesty of the accused will not
be in play.
criminal code contains over 10,000 crimes. State laws add even more
crimes to the list. Not even the government knows them all. Many
of these crimes are for seemingly innocent behavior, such as buying
2 packages of cold medicine, or possessing a flower that any other
country in the world has outlawed. Thus, telling your true story
about your seemingly completely innocent behavior could, in and
of itself, implicate you in a crime, you should never, ever, ever,
ever, ever, ever speak to government agents, ever.
that talking may incriminate them and so are much more aware of
their right to silence and are much more inclined to use it. Innocent
people like you arent aware of these dangers. And, if someone
is truly innocent, they need to know this right and know how to
use it far more than criminals do.
The Right To Remain Silent For A Reason. Use It For Better Privacy.
Under no circumstances
should you ever talk to a police officer, fire fighter, ticket enforcer
or street sweeper. All of them are government agents and can be
a witness to use anything you say to them against you in a court
Court recently ruled that to invoke your right to silence, you have
to break your silence and speak. They might need the fifth amendment
explained to them again, but that is what they said. A simple phrase
such as I am invoking my right to remain silent should
For Better Privacy
There is a
free and handy insert for your passport that will show you exactly
what you need to do to invoke your right to remain silent. It is
designed to help you right when you need it. You will have it with
you as you go through Customs upon re-entering the US. Customs officers
may need to have the fifth amendment explained to them too, so there
are several cases which clearly show your right to remain silent
in that situation. Remaining silent can give you better privacy
when re-entering the country.
still have the right to do a thorough search of you and your belongings
whether you invoke your right to remain silent or not. Threatening
a search, or actually subjecting you to search for invoking your
rights is within their power.
To avoid being
targeted for a search, it helps if you are not the only one invoking
your rights. If lots of others are invoking their right to remain
silent on a regular basis, no single individual will stand out any
more than normal.
the likelihood of a search and promote even better privacy, share
the free guide with everyone that you know. You have permission
to post it anywhere, share it with anyone, make copies, print, and
distribute it for free in any legal way as long as nothing is changed.
The more people that exercise their rights, the better privacy for
Rounds, J.D. is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting
from the University of Utah and a law degree from California
Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic
and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal
defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and
financial freedom and civil liberties. This is merely one article
of 73 by Bill