Growing up, you’ve probably heard the lines “You have the right to remain silent” - pretty much thousands of times in countless movies or TV series. Even Robocop says it before he utters his famous spiel“Dead or alive, you're coming with me!”. Well, this leaves the criminals shaking and fearing fearing for their lives. At least, that’s what happens in the movies (and in my imagination, too).
In real life, the right to silence is a common law that applies to everyone. In a nutshell, this right includes the right to decline to answer questions during police interrogation as well as the right to choose not to give evidence when being tried by a court. It doesn’t just apply to people suspected of a crime but to witnesses, too.
Given that right to silence is a common law right, there are certain instances when you can exercise this right and get legal advice straight away.
If you are a suspect for a criminal offence, or are being investigated for a crime, the police will subject you for interrogation. In such a situation, you can refuse to answer any questions that they may ask. However, you will be obliged to disclose your name as well as your address and date of birth. These questions are of relevance regardless if you are under arrest or not.
Before attempting to ask you questions, the police will inform you that you have the right to remain silent which entails that you don’t have to answer any of their questions and that you completely understand this. At some point, they may present you with evidence such as images of the offence and CCTV footage to confirm the identity of the offenders. In this situation, keep in mind that you do not have to answer them, or give information, unless you want to.
Ponder on this - anything you say can be used against you.
Apart from the police interrogation, you may also be interviewed as an attempt to make you confess to the crime or offence. Again, you are required to disclose your personal information and failure to comply will result in another offence. Now, in case you have been involved in a vehicular accident, you will also be required to disclose the details of the driver and any passengers at the time of the offence.
Confessions made without a proper caution are not admissible. Prior to the interview, you can let the police know that you’ll exercise your right to silence. They can’t force you to tell any information with regards to the offence. Now, there are times when you would want to have an interview but you need to fully assess the situation first.
Never do an interview without asking legal assistance first. Otherwise, you’ll end up being charged and make it very difficult for you to defend a charge later on in court. Again, talk to a lawyer first - this is a must.
Providing Evidence In Court
As a defendant, it may come to a point when you’ll be put on trial. In any event you’ll be asked to give evidence against a co-defendant, exercise your right to silence. Be informed that A defendant cannot be compelled to provide any evidence against a co-defendant unless you are tried separately. However, if you prefer, you can provide any evidence you want.
On the other hand, if you refuse to provide evidence, it will not be taken against you. The judge can give comments on this but it must not be suggested that by doing so, you are guilty one way or another. It doesn’t work like that.
The right to silence can help you obtain favourable results. Remember, the police can ask you as many questions they want but you can refuse to disclose any information until you have had a chance to get legal advice. Anything you say can be used against you in the court of law and when worse comes to worst, it will be your doom. Let’s hope it doesn’t lead to that.
Seek legal advice from a lawyer right away. Let them represent your best intentions.