Most people have heard the Miranda warning at least a few times in their lives. It often features prominently in movies and television shows involving the police. The first component of the Miranda warning is the right to remain silent.
People do not need to implicate themselves during a conversation with the police. But, when exactly does someone facing a criminal investigation potentially have the right to remain silent?
Those in state custody do not need to speak
It would be very easy for prosecutors to unfairly convict individuals if people had to answer questions posed by the police. Officers could ask leading questions and make even an innocent person seem guilty. Therefore, those subjects to questioning while in state custody have the option of remaining silent. Generally, police officers should inform someone of their right to remain silent before beginning the questioning or interrogation process.
However, they may not inform someone of their right to remain silent when questioning them prior to an arrest. People can still invoke their right against self-incrimination when talking to police prior to an arrest, although they may need the support of a lawyer to effectively assert their rights.
Even someone confident that the truth should exonerate them may need support when police officers want to talk to them about a criminal investigation. Those trying to cooperate with law enforcement may find that having a lawyer present can help protect them against mistakes that could lead to their prosecution. The same is true of those subject to questioning after an arrest.
Ultimately, understanding the rules that apply during a criminal investigation may help people avoid mistakes that could increase their chances of a conviction.