The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution protects people from having to give evidence against themselves. In general, this means that if the police arrest you or if a prosecutor questions you, you do not have to testify against yourself. The burden is on the state or the federal government to prove its case independent of any testimony you give. As with most laws, there are exceptions and special circumstances.

Common Fifth Amendment issues

Some of the many issues our Annapolis defense lawyers address in criminal cases are:

  • The police are required to read you your Miranda rights, which includes the right to remain silent. They are only required to do this while conducting a custodial investigation.
  • Identity information. You are required to answer certain identity questions such as your name and address.
  • If you volunteer information, that information can be used in court. The police can’t force you to speak but if you volunteer any information, that information can be used against you. The best course of action is to immediately speak to your lawyer in private. The lawyer will explain that you shouldn’t say anything to the police until he arrives. Statements to the police must be voluntary. It should be clear you knowingly and intelligently waived your right to stay silent.
  • The right to remain silent doesn’t apply to everyone. Statements you give to non-police officer such as people you share a cell with or to friends or family can be used against you. Being friendly to a secretary or stranger may seem like a way to unburden yourself – but those statements can come back to haunt you.
  • You should not assume that you can say anything before the police have read your Miranda warnings. The police will argue that your statements were voluntary. The burden then shifts to you to show they were not voluntary. Anyone accused of a crime should also understand that the police may say they read you your Miranda rights when they didn’t.
  • You have the right to change your mind at any time during a conversation with the police. If you do speak with them voluntarily, you can change your mind at any time during the conversation and say you wish to remain silent. The fact that you spoke voluntarily doesn’t mean you can never reverse course and decide that you want to stay quiet.

Read More: “Does This guy Ever Stop Talking?” (What Defendants Need to Know About the Fifth Amendment)

At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, our criminal defense lawyers in Annapolis, Ellicott City and Centreville understand when police have coerced statements and when statements are voluntarily. We advise clients to never speak with the police officer without asking to speak with us first. For help with any criminal case, including ones where you have given the police a statement, call 410.777.8103 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.

Just remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.