Being under police interrogation is always a high-stress situation, and with good reason. When your liberty is on the line, and police are putting on the pressure to try to get you to make a confession, you may not know exactly what you should or should not say. That is why it is crucial for anyone facing criminal charges to know exactly how to invoke their Fifth Amendment constitutional rights.

The extent of your Fifth Amendment rights

The Fifth Amendment provides you with essential protection against overreach and abuse by the criminal justice system, including the police who arrested you.

The two most important aspects of the Fifth Amendment are your right to remain silent, and your right to have an attorney present during custodial interrogations. Once you invoke your right to remain silent, the police must cease questioning you for a reasonable amount of time. If you invoke your right to an attorney, they must cease questioning you until your attorney arrives.

Invoking your rights correctly is key

However, these rights are not automatic – they have no effect unless you clearly and explicitly invoke them. In other words, merely remaining silent while police question you is not the same thing as invoking your right to remain silent in order to end the interrogation. If you do not correctly invoke your rights, the police are not under any obligation to cease questioning you.

In order to correctly invoke your rights, you must clearly state that you are invoking your right to remain silent, and your right to an attorney. It is insufficient if you say something indecisive, such as “maybe I ought to have a lawyer present,” or, “I think I should probably remain silent.”

When the police have you in an interrogation room, pounding you with questions, it can be easy to lose your nerve. If you just remember to properly invoke your rights, and then remain silent until your attorney arrives, you can stand a much better chance of getting a favorable outcome in your criminal trial.