I Plead the 5th! Your Right to Remain Silent


The 5th Amendment of the US Constitution grants protections of several civil liberties, none more important than the right to not self-incriminate oneself. The Amendment states,

"No person shall . . . be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."

The 5th Amendment means you have the right to remain silent, so you don't need to make a statement that would be used against your best interests. This right popularized in many television shows and movies is a staple of the American criminal justice system. But what does it mean to you?

Traffic Stops

For most Americans, their only interaction with law enforcement is during a traffic stop. Typical traffic stops are when you are pulled over for speeding, running a red light, or not stopping for a stop sign. In this scenario, the officer will commonly ask you questions like, "do you know why I pulled you over?" or "do you know how fast you were going?" They ask these questions because anything you say to the officer can be used against you in Court. The more you speak, the more information is available to be held against you. This doesn't mean you should be rude to the officer by not responding to their questions. I am sure even some of you think that it might be better to "talk your way out of a ticket". My best advice: be courteous, and the less you say, the better. The only information you are obligated to provide to an officer is your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Beyond that, be polite and say the utmost least you can.

Criminal Stop

In an extension of the typical traffic stop, some stops become a criminal matter – especially if alcohol is involved, and then a traffic stop becomes a DUI. In these matters, way before an officer will recite your Miranda Rights, an officer will ask you similar questions like they would in a traffic stop. The officer might ask, "have you been drinking tonight?" and other matters relating to your sobriety and drinking pattern that evening. The officer will then ask you to perform a variety of Field Sobriety Tests. These questions and tests help the officer and prosecutors make a case against you. According to the 5th Amendment, you do not have to answer the questions or perform the Field Sobriety Tests. You are required by law to provide a blood or breath sample if you want to keep your driving privileges from being suspended for a year by the DMV. Depending on the results, you may then be arrested and brought to the station or county jail. This may take several hours, and the officers will be talking with you throughout this process. There may be things you want to say or explain to the officer, but just like a traffic stop, everything you say will be used against you.

Before you say anything, remember that the 5th Amendment was created to protect you and your civil liberties. Sometimes less is more – no matter the situation. So, preserve your right against self-incrimination.

If you have any questions or need help with a case, RPM Law is here to serve and protect your 5th amendment rights.