‘Miss Brown, you are under arrest and you have the right to remain silent as anything you say now may be used against you in the court of law.’
How many times have you heard such words being spoken in a movie to a suspect at the point of arrest? For me, it is countless. And many, like myself, has come to believe this statement to be true, and correct, serving as a caution to the suspect. The above statement is neither completely false nor the complete correct view of the law.
From the legal standpoint, what I term the arrester’s prayer is a constitutional provision geared at protecting the right of the suspect to keep mute and not a threat to caution him from asking justified questions upon apprehension. Section 35(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as ammended reads thus;
‘Any person who is arrested or detained shall have the right to remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his own choice.’
It is surprising that at the point of arrest, it is only one side of the coin that is presented to the suspect by the arresting law enforcement officer, while the other side is left out. It holds that it is one of the constitutional safeguards to ensure fair trial of the suspect. Therefore, it is a legal and just entitlement and not merely an expression indicating imminent or potential danger. In fact, nothing said at that point by the suspect may be used against him in the court of law as an extra-judicial statement of a suspect must necessarily be taken under caution before such can be admissible as evidence in the court of law.
When next you hear those words in a movie or even on the street, remember that it is a constitutional right of the suspect and not a mere threat to silence him. Be enlightened.