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Do you know how to invoke your Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights?

Almost everybody knows that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney when the police take you into custody. Whether from popular TV shows or in real life, we have all heard the police say the iconic words, “You have the right to remain silent,” when placing someone under arrest or interrogating them. But, if the day ever comes where you find yourself sitting across from police investigators during an interrogation, it’s essential that you know how to properly invoke these rights, and what they entail.

The purpose of these rights

The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution provide you with protections against overreach and abuse on the part of police and other officers of the judicial system.

Thanks to these rights, the police cannot force you to respond to their questions in order to extract information that they can use against you in court, or force you to testify at your own trial. They also cannot deny you the assistance of an attorney who can help guide you through every step of the criminal justice process.

How to invoke your rights

These rights are not automatic. They only take effect if you invoke them properly. For example, merely staying silent while the police question you is not the same thing as invoking your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. If you clearly invoke these rights, they must cease their interrogation until your attorney arrives.

You must clearly state your intention to invoke your rights in order for them to take effect. It is not sufficient to say something like “I probably shouldn’t talk to you,” or, “Maybe I need an attorney.” Rather, you must tell the police that you are invoking your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. Then, do not say anything else to them until you have your attorney with you.

The right to avoid self-incrimination is one of the key aspects that makes our criminal justice system function. By knowing how to invoke your rights, you can help to ensure that you will have a fair and honest trial and the opportunity to defend yourself against the charges in court.