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True or False – You have the right to remain silent?

The right to silence is a feature of our criminal law system, but your right to silence is not absolute.

The right to silence is linked to the presumption of innocence, and the idea, that in our system it is better that the guilty go free, rather than have the innocent convicted.  Essentially, if you are being accused of a criminal offence, you have no duty to confess.  You have the right to say nothing, and make the Crown prove its case against you.

However, this does not mean you have an absolute right to silence.   In Queensland, you are obliged to give police your name and address in range of circumstances.  You can also be required to provide information in some other situations, for example, if you are a witness to a traffic collision.  There are also some special laws, for example dealing with terrorism and organised crime, where the authorities have special powers to require information.

When it comes to police interviews, although you have the right to silence, you may want to get some legal advice about whether you should exercise your right to silence.  For example, there is a diversion program for minor drug offences that is only available if you indicate you admit to the offence.  It’s always a good idea to get some advice before a police interview if you can.