The right of an individual accused of a crime to remain silent stems from the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This right – or privilege – allows you to remain silent when questioned by law enforcement. Also referred to as the right against self-incrimination, the purpose of the Fifth Amendment is to give you the right to avoid incriminating yourself by any statements that you make to the police.
What to Say if You Are Pulled Over on Suspicion of DUI
All too often, drivers who are pulled over on suspicion of a traffic offense, DUI, or another crime by a police officer want to be polite and helpful. They also have a tendency to offer information or try to explain their behavior. This is a big mistake. Every time you open your mouth, the police officer will be noting your statements and trying to build a case against you for a crime. Giving too much information to a police officer will just help him or her build a stronger case against you. You should limit what you say, answer only completely necessary questions, and give only the bare minimum of information. Don’t try to explain why you might have been speeding or why your eyes look bloodshot. Don’t make it easier for the police to arrest you, and for the prosecutor to file criminal charges against you.
The Consequences of Waiving Your Fifth Amendment Right
If you do voluntarily speak or make a statement to police about an incident that may be criminal in nature, anything you say can be used against you as evidence in support of criminal charges, or to support an investigation against you regarding criminal charges. Clearly, it is a big mistake to answer questions about allegedly criminal conduct; doing so may make it much easier for the prosecution to convict you of a crime.
The Defendant’s Fifth Amendment Right in Court
When you are accused of a crime and proceed to trial on the charges, you have the right to remain silent throughout your trial and not testify on your own behalf. This right is another aspect of the right against self-incrimination. However, if you decide to testify in your own criminal trial, you waive your Fifth Amendment right, and anything that you say can be used as evidence against you that may prove your guilt. In order to testify, you must state under oath that you are knowingly and intentionally waiving your right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment.
Evidence Not Covered by the Fifth Amendment
It is important to remember that the Fifth Amendment only extends to speech. It does not cover other information that may be used as evidence against you. For instance, if you are pulled over, and you undergo a breathalyzer or field sobriety test, the results of those tests may be used as evidence against you. Likewise, your driver’s license, insurance card, and vehicle registration are all documents that you must produce when you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer. These items, too, can be used as evidence against you. Depending on the circumstances, you also may be required to undergo fingerprinting, give a DNA sample, or give a blood sample. Similarly, the results of any of these actions can be used to incriminate you.
Contact the Tiftickjian Law Firm for Help
We know how difficult it can be when you are accused of DUI or a similar criminal offense under Colorado law. No matter what your situation, or what statements you made to police, we can help. Allow us analyze the facts and circumstances surrounding your case, assess any potential defenses, and build the best defense possible to minimize the potential consequences. Contact the Tiftickjian Law Firm today, and let us help you.