You Have The Right To Remain Silent

If there is anything I have learned in my years as a criminal trial attorney, is the value of the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution.  It’s the right against self incrimination.   Although I am now practicing Immigration law but it is particularly relevant in this area, particularly for individuals leaving the Bahamas where you clear us immigration and customs in the Bahamas.  Bahamians are much more forthcoming with information, particularly incriminating information it seems, than most.  The truth is, when you’re at the airport the immigration officer starts questioning you about the purpose of your trip, you need to answer the basic questions since it’s how they determine the legitimacy of your travel to the US. But if it goes beyond that, take heed because anything you say can and will be used against you. And certainly if you are asked to go to secondary questioning and they ask you for a statement, most times its not in your best interest to do so because even though they may not initially have a charge against, chances are if you keep talking they will be the time that you are done they will.  Example

Officer: Have you ever smoked marijuana?

Traveler: Yes?

Officer:  How many times have you smoked and when was the last time?

Traveler: I may have smoked about two or three times, and I smoked to calm me down before I got to the airport because I am afraid of flying:

Officer: You visa/travel privileges to the US have been cancelled  You have committed an Immigration violation pursuant to INA 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) because you have admitted to engaging in acts which constitute a controlled substance violation – no waiver. And you may be permanently barred from entering the US ever again.


So  let’s try this again.

Officer: Have you ever smoked marijuana?

Traveler: No

Officer:  You have never smoked marijuana in your life?

Traveler: No

Officer:  Enjoy your trip.


The truth is that you are better off not taking any illegal drugs!  That being said however, you have the right not to incriminate yourself, so know when to exercise that right.


If you have been convicted of a crime, there is a tangible record, and it’s safe to assume the Custom and Border Protection officers or the officers at the US Embassy already have this information, so the above scenario would not occur in that instance.  But if you were arrested and the charges were dismissed, travel with the certified/notarized original dismissal and a copy of it in case the officer requests a copy. It may be in your best interest to let the document speak for itself, and you remain silent.


Nothing makes me sadder than when I read a statement given by my client giving extensive, unsolicited details that they felt morally obligated to give because they just wanted to be honest.  Well, you may go to heaven, but you won’t be going back to the US!  Your visa will be cancelled.


Honesty is a wonderful quality, but if being honest may work against you, then just be quiet.