I Do Not Choose To Answer Any Questions - At All.

I realize you are not my lawyer. I am not my lawyer either. My legal training is limited to watching Perry Mason reruns.

I understand the utility of not answering questions upon being arrested, and also that I am not obligated to answer anything beyond my name and identifying information even before that. Is there ever a point, however, where I have to answer questions after I have spoken with an attorney?

Suppose the following scenario -

The police are driving past my house when they notice a dead body lying on my front porch. They investigate, and find that he has been dead for at least four hours. It is about five AM. The dead man is my next door neighbor. He has suffered a single stab wound to the abdomen.

The police can see that I am sitting in my living room. They knock on the door. I make no response whatever. They obtain a search warrant, or do whatever they need to do to get permission to break down the door.

They attempt to interview me to find out what I can tell them about the murdered man. I make no answer. I refuse, in fact, to say anything whatever, except to give my name and birthdate.

Their investigation shows that the knife that killed my neighbor is similar to a set of steak knives in my kitchen. My neighbor’s wife tells the police that my neighbor hated me, because I called Animal Control and had his dog taken to the pound the only time it came onto my property two weeks earlier.

Based on this, I am arrested. I refuse to answer any questions, and I ask for a lawyer, which is provided. Now the core question -

Can I refuse to say anything after I speak to a lawyer as well? I give no alibi, I will not describe anything about the circumstances, I make no effort to explain. I refuse all questions. Can I do that?


This answer pertains only to the USA.

You have the right to remain silent during the course of the investigation.

The judge may allow you to remain silent but can require you to answer questions - specifically if he determines that such an answer will not be self-incriminating as in doesn’t violate the 5th amendment. Such questions would be - identify yourself, etc. Do you live at…? Refusing to answer such questions can be contempt of court.

Your Lawyer can enter your plea and you cannot be required to testify.

In theory, you could be required to testify, if you were granted immunity from prosecution. There are different types of immunity. I forget their proper names, but iirc, one type is that they agree not to use anything you say against you, and another is they agree not to prosecute you for anything related to your testimony. Your testimony would be sworn, and you’d be subject to perjury charges if you lie, plus lying might void the immunity deal. I doubt they’d offer immunity on the facts in the OP’s hypothetical.

IANAL, in fact IANAA, but surely since your Fifth Amendment guarantees your right to silence even in a court, it must apply generally. No?

In fact, I am sure that **Shodan’s **lawyer would advise against answering any questions by police. Here is a post in another thread with links to a two-part video that show a demonstration given to a class of law studentsby a policeman who explains why you should never answer any questions by police. It can’t possibly do you any good, and *could *make you look bad even if you’re truly innocent.

The 5th amendment does not give you the “right to remain silent.” It says “…nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…” So if you are a defendent, you can decline to answer questions in court (except possibly as noted above at judge’s discretion, I don’t know how those hairs are split). The “right to remain silent” is given by the typical Miranda warning, and I am not familiar with how it was derived vis a vis the Fifth Amendment. I suppose that if someone’s answers to questioning by police could be used as evidence in court, that counts as “be[ing] a witness against himself.”

It is highly unlikely that a defendant would be granted immunity to testify.

IANAL but ask me about jazz guitar. :slight_smile:

Suppose they confiscate the OP’s jazz guitar. Can it be strictly rhythm or can the cops make it cry or sing against the OP?

No can do. I’ve got a meeting at the crossroads later this evening…

Use immunity and transactional immunity.

In this instance you’d have a nearly absolute right to silence. If you have a good alibi, it may well be a good idea to share it, but as a suspect or evev a defendant, you are theoretically under no obligation to explain or defend yourself. If the state thinks you did it, they have to prove it without demanding any cooperation from you.

As noted though, if the prosecution gives you immunity, you then have to testify because you are no longer in danger of putting yourself in legal jeopardy.


Does he have to give anything to the police beyond his name? I noticed that he was offering his birthdate.

Shodan, let us hear from you.

Oakminister, I’m going to assume that you are Johnson and not his benefactor.

CookingWithGas, play me up some Jobim.

Need answer fast!

Hi, Zoe.

My understanding, gleaned from reading the Great Legal Minds of the SDMB[sup]TM[/sup], is that you have to give “identifying information”. I took that as name, address, and birthdate - basically everything needed to run my thru the computer and see if I have any outstanding warrants, an arrest record, etc.

Thanks to all for their responses.


Heh…I gave fair warning in my first ever post here…
Please allow me to introduce myself.
I’m a man of wealth and taste

Let’s just not talk about that Georgia fan that stole my fiddle.

Well, they can’t force you to speak and they’d presumably need more than circumstantial evidence to convict you.

Of course, if you refuse to enter a plea at trial you will be subjected to the peine forte et dure, in other words a board will be placed over your chest and stomach and gradually loaded with more and more rocks until you suffocate.

Or did they get rid of that?

More weight.


“Wave” is one my top favorites! Sorry, didn’t mean to hijack…