The Fifth Amendment provides that “[n]o person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself….”
Some people think the Fifth Amendment is just a way for people who are guilty to hide.
Maybe, maybe not – the Supreme Court in Ohio v. Reiner said the purpose of the Fifth Amendment is to protect the innocent.
Special agents sure do like it when you talk to them. It makes their job a lot easier.
The Supreme Court has also opined in Watts v. Indiana that “…any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to police under any circumstances.”
I have often seen police interviews of suspects where the police convince the suspects that it is in their best interest to talk – nothing could be further from the truth. If you want to talk, let your lawyer do it for you.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said in 1998 that “… the complexity of modern federal criminal law, codified in several thousand sections of the United States Code and the virtually infinite variety of factual circumstances that might trigger an investigation into a possible violation of the law, make it difficult for anyone to know, in advance, just when a particular set of statements might later appear (to a prosecutor) to be relevant to some such investigation.”
The heart of the matter is that criminal law is incredibly complicated - you may not even know you are violating a law.
Here are some additional reasons to exercise your Constitutional Fifth Amendment right.
Talking to law enforcement personnel will not help you. You will not be able to talk your way out of a problem. Police – if they are being honest – will agree.
Even if you are guilty, you are confessing with no benefit in return. For example, if you saved your confession for plea negotiations you might be able to get a discounted sentence.
If you decide to talk and are not completely honest – you have just committed another crime.
A special agent’s memory of the conversation might be radically different from the truth or what you actually told them. Note, special agents don’t like to record conversations – you can make your guesses as to why. Police make mistakes – innocently sometimes and other times on purpose.
In summary, never talk to a special agent or any police officer. If you are questioned, tell the special agent: “I want to talk with my attorney. He/she will get in touch with you.”