Take Your Miranda Rights Seriously
Most of us have seen plenty of police shows where the officer reads the suspect his or her rights—then the suspect proceeds to talk, giving the police all the information they need for an arrest (which they probably did not have before the suspect talked). If you are ever in a situation where you are being questioned by the police, it is extremely important that you take your right to remain silent very seriously. In many cases suspects are questioned aggressively to the point they give in and confess—even when they are actually innocent. A 2009 United States Supreme Court ruling addressed this issue in Federal cases after a robbery suspect was held and questioned for two days straight. The Court held that interrogation involving isolation and pressure can lead to involuntary confessions from truly innocent people.
The Court decreed that any person held for a federal crime cannot be held and questioned for longer than six hours unless they are brought before a federal Magistrate Judge. Even with these additional safeguards in place, six hours is a very long time to be questioned by police, and the rules in non-federal cases are often blurry at best. While states are not obligated to follow Federal guidelines, local police departments may choose to err on the side of caution in bringing a suspect before a judge sooner rather than later if only to avoid the possibility of having a coerced confession thrown out—or they may not.
It is always in your best interests to simply give your name and address politely then refuse to answer another question until your attorney arrives. Once you have requested an attorney, the police may no longer continue questioning you. You may feel—like many people—that there is little harm in answering questions asked by the police, particularly if you are truly innocent, but there are many issues to consider before agreeing to speak to police officers. Remember there are serious legal outcomes associated with being persuaded to confess to a crime, and it is always preferable to speak with an attorney first. Even a seemingly harmless, joking comment, made in an attempt to ease the tension with the police officer will be documented and can later be taken out of context, misquoted or misconstrued. Should you require additional proof as to why you should never talk to police, consider the following:
- There are virtually no scenarios in which talking to a police officer will actually help you. If you have been brought in for questioning, it is important that you realize that the police officers believe you have committed a crime and that they have almost enough evidence against you to arrest you. It is highly likely the officers are working under the theory that if they get you to talk, you will give them additional evidence against you. It is probably fair to say that no one has ever talked their way out of an arrest; if you deny that you had any part in committing the crime in question it is highly unlikely you will be believed—after all, the police believe all suspects are guilty and that you will lie to get yourself out of trouble. There are many, many, people who believed they were eloquent or well-educated enough to convince a police officer they had no part in committing the crime in question, yet many of those people are currently sitting behind bars. Remember: There is absolutely nothing to be gained by talking to the police—it will not stop the police from arresting you and, in the end, will only hurt your case and your future.
- Perhaps you actually are innocent, yet make a misstatement when talking to police, leading them to believe you are guilty. Even the most innocent person can inadvertently tell what seems to be a harmless, little white lie when trying to convince the police of their innocence. Unfortunately, once the police know you have denied even the most insignificant fact, they will assume everything you have said is a lie. Further, the misstatement you made will be used at trial to shred your credibility. Consider this scenario: You are brought in for questioning regarding a burglary in the area. You deny you were in the area on the night in question, you deny owning a car similar to one witnesses describe and you deny that you now own or have ever owned a gun. The police then find out that you did, in fact, own a gun over two decades ago. Even if you truly believed that fact was irrelevant to what you were being questioned about, and even if you don’t currently own a gun (and haven’t in a very long time), your credibility is now suspect in the eyes of the police. That tiny white lie could land you in jail or prison for a crime you actually did not commit.
- If you are innocent and don’t have any discrepancies in what you are telling the police, you may still inadvertently give the police a detail which could be used to convict you. Many innocent people can be telling the absolute truth—to a fault. Perhaps you knew the victim of the crime and tell the police that while you had nothing to do with the crime against the victim, you never really like that person anyway. Suddenly, the police have motive they did not have before you opened your mouth—you didn’t like the victim, therefore you must have committed the crime against him. If you are not talking, then you can’t say something that will reflect badly against you at trial.
- If you are innocent and don’t tell a white lie or give the police a detail they can use against you, what if the police officer you are speaking to doesn’t remember your statement with 100% accuracy? Police are only human, and unless you are being recorded while speaking to the police, they may remember what you said one way while you remember it entirely differently. They may also take a portion of what you said out of context, making it sound like you said something you actually did not mean. Of course you will have the opportunity at trial to tell the jury that you did not say what the officer stated, however in the real world juries are just much more apt to believe a police officer over the person on trial. They will assume that you will lie in order to avoid being convicted of a crime. It may not be fair, or right, but this is the world we live in.
- Perhaps the police officer doesn’t just misstate what you said, maybe he or she will flat-out lie. Of course we want to believe that police officers are held to a higher standard and that they would never tell a blatant lie in order to solve a crime. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Solving crimes can be hard work, and for the detective interrogating you, there may be a temptation to “solve” the case by inventing evidence by claiming you made incriminating statements you actually never made. If you don’t talk at all, there is no way the officer can say you said something you actually did not say.
- You are totally innocent of the crime, tell the truth and provide no information that can be used as evidence against you, however a witness claims to have seen you in the area where the crime was committed. There can be a number of factors at play in this scenario, the first being that the witness has misidentified you as the person they saw in the area. According to the Innocence Project, eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in a whopping 72% of convictions which have since been overturned through DNA testing. Unfortunately, eyewitness testimony is extremely persuasive to judges and juries, despite decades of social science research proving it unreliable. When presented with eyewitness identification, you may feel compelled to defend yourself, stating you were nowhere near the area where the crime was committed. Now there exists a conflict between your statement and the statement of the witness, and, once again, you will be assumed to be the person lying.
- Even if you are the most honest person on the planet, it is extremely difficult for anybody to tell a story in exactly the same way multiple times. As human beings, it is normal for us to forget what we said, or remember something we did not remember the first time. The more times the police ask you to tell your story, the more likely they are to find some tiny discrepancy that allows them to question your overall credibility.
- Okay, so now suppose that you really did commit the crime and think the police will go easier on you if you just ‘fess up. The only thing a confession will garner you is the stiffest penalties associated with your crime. What you must remember is that you will have lots of time in the future to plead guilty—with a highly qualified attorney by your side who can negotiate a deal in response to your guilty plea. If you don’t have an attorney by your side when you confess, it is very unlikely you will receive anything in return for your guilty plea. The only thing you get in return for telling the police you are guilty is the harshest sentence. Wait until your attorney arrives before you say anything, and particularly before you confess.
- It is important that you understand that the police have no authority to make a deal with you in return for your statement. Of course they may imply they do have such authority, but only the district attorney’s office can offer you a legitimate deal. Police are well-known for telling suspects that “it will be much easier on you, if you just tell me what happened.” This statement is never going to be true, so don’t believe it.
- It is equally important that you understand that if a detective calls and says he just wants to “talk to you and ask you a few questions,” this is exactly the same thing as an interrogation. The police may cloak their request in milder language in order to lull you into thinking there is no reason you shouldn’t talk to them, but police officers are highly trained to extract as much information from a suspect as possible, using any tactics necessary—even if that includes blatantly lying to a suspect.
The police are likely to arrest you, no matter what you say, if they believe there is evidence to prove your guilt, and once your attorney tells them they are no longer allowed to question you, that is probably exactly what they will do. Don’t panic—and don’t let the trauma of an arrest push you in to talking, either. Remember: remain silent, other than stating you will not talk until you have a lawyer physically present. (“Talking” includes not writing anything down, as well as watching your body language.) Should you feel the need to confess, make that confession to your lawyer—no one else. Communications with your attorney are privileged and confidential, and that urge to confess to the police will pass, so keep your lips sealed until your attorney arrives. Once your attorney arrives, he or she will consult with you, then inform the detective that you are represented by counsel and the detective may no longer question you.
Other information you may find helpful:
-The Supreme Court has ruled that so long as a police officer does not force you to do something, then the assumption is that you are doing it voluntarily. This means that even when a police officer intimidates and bullies you into talking because you are scared, the court will nonetheless rule you talked voluntarily (because no physical force was used).
-The Supreme Court has given police officers the right to lie to you, and most police officers are highly trained at lying, twisting your words and manipulating you into a confession.
-Caution your teenagers to never speak to a police officer until they have called you and you are present. The officer is trained to build trust and put your child at ease, and could use that trust to convict your child of a crime he or she did not commit.
-Police officers do not have to read you your Miranda Rights following an arrest if you agree to talk to them voluntarily.
-If you are jailed, resist the temptation to speak to another inmate about your case. The only person you should speak to about the facts of your case are your lawyer—no one else.
There are an estimated 10,000 people in the United States who are wrongly convicted each and every year. Think about it—that number is huge, not to mention terrifying. It is likely that many of those people talked to the police officer who just wanted to “ask a few questions.” They may have felt they had nothing to hide, therefore there was no reason not to talk. They may have felt they could “explain” to the officer what really happened, then they would be allowed to go home. Whatever the reason the person talked to the police the outcome of these wrongful convictions might have been far different if they had refused to talk until their attorney arrived.
If you are ever in a situation where you are being asked to talk to a police officer—don’t. Call an experienced Florida attorney from the firm of Finebloom, Haenel and Higgins and remain silent until the attorney arrives. Our attorneys are highly skilled and knowledgeable regarding Florida laws and will assess your case after hearing what you have to say, then determine the best way to proceed. You can trust an attorney from Finebloom, Haenel and Higgins; we will aggressively defend your rights and look out for your future.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.