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Virginia Criminal Defense:Know Your Rights - The Right to Remain Silent

If you have ever seen an episode of Law & Order, you're likely familiar with the refrain: 'You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.'

But what does the right to remain silent really mean?

This right comes from the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees, among other things, that no person 'shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.'

In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), a landmark Fifth Amendment case in the United States Supreme Court, the Court held that before any custodial interrogation, the person being questioned must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed.

The warning to which the Court referred is now called the Miranda Warning.

The right to remain silent does have limitations. In Duckworth v. Eagan, 492 U.S. 195 (1989), the Supreme Court held that the Miranda Warning need not be given verbatim, as long as the substance of the warning is present.

Thus, there are no 'magic words' that must be used by the police. Additionally, the right to remain silent is not absolute.

If asked by police, you must provide them with routine identification information, such as your name, address, age, etc.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is this: If you indicate to the police prior to or during interrogation that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent, ALL QUESTIONING RELATED TO THE PARTICULAR CRIME FOR WHICH YOU ARE BEING QUESTIONED MUST STOP.

If the police continue to question you, they are violating your constitutional rights and anything that you say after that point will be inadmissible in a trial against you.

The attorneys at Boone Beale stand ready to vigorously defend your constitutional rights, including your right to remain silent in response to questioning by the police. If you feel that your constitutional rights have been violated, call Boone Beale today.