You have the right to remain silent. Use it.

Posted in

An odd feature concerning the courts. They are responsible for the administration of justice. But that “justice” may be limited. They are as much about the incarceration of individuals and assisting law enforcement in that task.

For instance, the Missouri Court of Appeals has reversed a trial court’s ruling on the suppression of statements made by a man accused of murder. He claims his wife shot and wounded him during an argument and he shot her in self-defense, killing her. When police arrived, they asked him to sign a consent form that would allow them to search the home. He told them: “I ain’t signing s— without my attorney.”

They later questioned him after his arrest without an attorney being present and his attorney moved to suppress that interview, claiming he had invoked his Fifth Amendment right to silence. When an accused states they do not want to speak to the police and want an attorney, it is supposed to stop all further questioning until the individual’s attorney is present.

But, and this is a large but, the courts have often stated the demand must be clear and unambiguous. Here, the court of appeals disagreed with the lower court and found that the statement was not unambiguous.

So the teaching lesson from this case reinforces that if you are arrested or even being questioned about a serious crime, you must immediately, and politely, insist that you will answer no further questions and you want an attorney.

The politely part is useful, as the police are very good at inflating any amount of belligerence into disruptive conduct, potentially generating yet another criminal charge.

Law enforcement preys on the ignorance of many arrested as to their rights, and because the details can be confusing, just remember, ask for an attorney and inform the police unambiguously that you invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Source:, “Appeals court overrules suppression of statements in Lawrence County murder case,” Jeff Lehr, March 16, 2016

Leave a Comment