If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense, there are a few crucial “rules” to keep in mind. At the top of that list is that you have the right to remain silent. Even if you have never been involved with the criminal justice system before in any capacity, you have undoubtedly heard of the right to remain silent and how important it is to exercise that right. What you may not understand, however, is that the concept behind the right to remain silent continues to apply after you are booked into a jail cell. An Omaha drug crime attorney explains why it remains important to keep quiet after your arrest and throughout the time you are in custody.
The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
As a suspect and/or an accused, you enjoy a number of rights and privileges guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Most of these rights and privileges are found in the first ten Amendments, collectively referred to as the “Bill of Rights.” Your right to remain silent stems from the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment, which reads as follows:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Although we traditionally think of the right to remain silent in terms of police questioning or interrogation, it is not limited to your interaction with law enforcement.
The Jail House Snitch
Unfortunately, most people learn their lesson about the “jailhouse snitch” the hard way. As the term implies, a “jail house snitch” is someone who is incarcerated with you who later offers to testify against you at trial. Often, it is your cellmate, but it can be anyone within the jail or prison. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors might not put a jailhouse snitch at the top of their list of witnesses, if given a choice, but they will certainly use when the opportunity arises. One of the many problems with jailhouse snitch testimony is knowing how that opportunity arose.
As you may well imagine, few jailhouse snitches offer to testify against a fellow prisoner out of the goodness of their heart nor out of the need to do the right thing. Instead, most do so with the hope – and usually the promise – of getting something in return from the State. That something might be a reduction in his/her sentence, dismissal of charges, or transfer to a more desirable prison. To say that a jailhouse informant has an incentive to lie would be the understatement of the year. Although most states have adopted guidelines, and/or enacted laws that create strict conditions under which a jailhouse informant’s testimony can be used, those rules and laws can be a little too flexible at times, especially when a prosecutor really needs the testimony.
Does It Really Matter If You Remain Silent?
If a jail house snitch is willing to lie and make up a conversation you had wherein you admitted your crime, why does it matter if you remain silent or not? The simple answer is credibility. If a jail house informant cannot provide details that only the perpetrator would know, he/she often comes off sounding unreliable or like a liar. Furthermore, not all jailhouse informants are willing to lie. Your cellmate might actually be honest and refuse to offer testimony unless it is truthful. So why offer him/her any actual evidence against you? The best thing you can do for yourself and for your case is to continue to remain silent with regard to the charges against you.
Contact an Omaha Drug Crime Attorney at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, consult with an experienced Omaha criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.