Some months back we reminded readers about the rights suspects have when questioned by authorities. Understanding basic Miranda Rights is considered so critical that police in Tennessee and every other state are required by law to inform those they arrest about them. You have the right to remain silent and to know that anything you do say could be used against you in court. Also, you have a right to call an attorney before answering questions.
As straightforward as those statements are, there is something else that individuals in custody need to know. Where legal matters are concerned, nuances of language and behavior can have a huge influence on eventual outcomes. Police, prosecutors and experienced attorneys know this. If you are new to the criminal justice system, you probably don't. And where confusion reigns, missteps can occur.
Clarity is king
When it comes to invoking your Miranda rights, you need to be very clear about it. That is, simply remaining silent under questioning is not enough. Interrogators can continue questioning you, even if you don't answer. If officers are able to provoke you into saying something, even after a long period of silence, that could be interpreted as an indication that you have waived your rights and the statement could be used later in court.
To put a halt to the examination, you must explicitly state that you are choosing to remain silent and that you want to speak with an attorney. Hedging even slightly by saying something like, "maybe I need to speak with a lawyer," or "I will be invoking my right to remain silent," could be interpreted to mean you have not yet invoked your rights.
In many ways, the process of the criminal justice system is like ballroom dancing, and having a skilled attorney leading will help prevent your rights being stepped on.