What Does The Right To Remain Silent Mean?

Custodial interrogation of a suspect must cease if he or she “indicates in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent.” Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. at 473-474. The suspect need not assert his or her privilege to remain silent with the “utmost of legal precision.” State v. Johnson, 120 N.J. 263, 281 (1990) (quoting State v. Bey (I), 112 N.J. 45, 65 (1988)). Silence itself can be deemed to be an invocation of the privilege against self-incrimination. State v. Johnson, 120 N.J. at 281.

A suspect’s request to terminate questioning must be honored, regardless of how ambiguously or equivocally the request is worded. State v. Harvey, 121 N.J. 407, 417, 419 (1990) (the defendant’s statement that he would tell the police about the murder, but first he wanted to speak to his father, was held to be an invocation of his self-incrimination privilege), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 931 (1991); State v. Bey (I), 112 N.J. 45, 64-65 (1988) (defendant’s statement that he “did not want to talk about it” deemed to be an invocation of the privilege); State v. Bohuk, 269 N.J. Super. 581, 593 (App. Div.) (refusal to respond to even preliminary questions concerning a drunk driving charge must be regarded as an assertion by the defendant of the Fifth Amendment privilege), certif. denied, 136 N.J. 29, cert. denied, 513 U.S. 865,115S. Ct. 183, 130 L.Ed.2d 117 (1994). Note the contrast to federal constitutional law, where a suspect must unambiguously invoke his or her right to remain silent. Berghuis v. Thompkins, 560 U.S. __, 130 S.Ct. 2250, 2259-60 (2010).

Once the right to remain silent has been asserted, it must be “scrupulously honored.” Michigan v. Mosley, 423 U.S. 96, 102-103 (1975); State v. Adams, 127 N.J. 438, 445 (1992); State v. Fuller, 118 N.J. 75, 81 (1990). Under New Jersey law, once a suspect has invoked his or her right to remain silent, the police must issue a new set of Miranda warnings before questioning may resume. State v. Hartley,103 N.J. 252, 267 (1986). Any statement obtained without administering fresh warnings in unconstitutionally compelled and inadmissible. State v. Hartley, 103 N.J. at 280-281; State v. Mallon, 288 N.J. Super. 139, 147 (App. Div. 1996). See also Westover v. United States, 384 U.S. 436, 496-497 (1996)

If you or a family member has incriminated yourself through not remaining silent in a police interview in New Jersey, it is crucial you speak with a qualified criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in handling criminal matters. The attorneys at Aiello Harris have the experience and knowledge to protect your rights and defend you against criminal charges.  For a free initial consultation, call us today at (908) 561-5577 or contact us online.  Your initial consultation is free.

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