If you or someone you care about is suspected of a crime you should read this information before you or they speak to the police. (This information is brought to you by Tulsa criminal lawyer Kevin Adams, but this information is helpful to anyone suspected of a crime.)
1. INNOCENT PEOPLE DO GO TO PRISON
Many people believe if they have not done anything wrong, they have nothing to worry about. This is not true. In the dissenting opinion of Johnson v. Louisiana, Justice Douglas of the United States Supreme Court wrote: Any person faced with the awesome power of government is in great jeopardy, even though innocent. Facts are always elusive and often two-faced. What may appear to one to imply guilt may carry no such overtones to another. Every criminal prosecution crosses treacherous ground, for guilt is common to all men.
Innocent people do go to prison. It can happen to you, your friends or your family. Whether you are innocent or guilty, if you are suspected of a crime, you need to be cautious and contact a criminal defense attorney for help.
2. DO NOT GIVE A STATEMENT AND INSIST ON HAVING A LAWYER PRESENT
If there is any indication that you might be suspected of a crime, do not give a statement. Instead, insist on having a lawyer present before you answer any questions. The request should be clear and unmistakable. Be polite but be firm. Say, “I want to talk with a lawyer before I will answer any questions.”
Do not ask the police if you need a lawyer. They will tell you that you do not. They will try to talk you out of requesting a lawyer. Asking if you need a lawyer is not good enough. You must tell the police in a clear and unmistakable way that you will not answer any questions without having a lawyer present. Do not sign any waivers and stop talking. The police may be very nice to you; this does not mean they are your friends or are trying to help you. You should be polite, but you must be firm. Insist on speaking with a lawyer. Insist on having a lawyer present before you answer any questions. A lawyer will be able to help you deal with the police. A lawyer can tell you whether you are at risk of being charged with a crime. Preferably, you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer.
3. YOUR SILENCE CANNOT BE USED AGAINST YOU
Your silence cannot be used against you at a trial. However, even a denial may later be used against you. Sometimes people are afraid and make blanket denials such as, “I don’t know what you are talking about,” when they know exactly what the police are talking about. Do not lie to the police; simply say, “I want to talk with a lawyer and have a lawyer present before answering any questions.”
4. THE POLICE MAY LIE TO YOU
Many people are surprised to learn that the police can lie in order to gain a confession. The police can and do lie to suspects to get them to talk. Do not fall for this. Insist on speaking to a lawyer and having a lawyer present before you answer any questions. Do not let the lies of the police pressure you into making an incriminating statement. Officers might say things such as they have an eyewitness that can identify you, so you might as well tell them what happened. The police might tell you that they have your fingerprints or a videotape. If more than one person is arrested they might tell you that the other person has given a statement implicating you. Do not believe it. Simply ask for a lawyer and do not say anything.
There are numerous cases where appellate Courts have upheld confessions that were obtained after the police lied to a suspect. For instance in a case named Amaya-Ruiz v. Stewart the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a confession was admissible even though the police misrepresented the evidence they had against the defendant.
5. THE POLICE MAY THREATEN YOU
There are good and bad people in the world and there are good and bad police officers in the world. Some officers will do things that are unconstitutional and wrong. If you find yourself in a situation where an officer is threatening you with physical violence or threatening to charge your family or loved ones with a crime if you do not talk, you should not give in. Renew your request for an attorney.
If you do give in out of fear, insist on giving a written statement and start the statement by listing what the officer has done in order to get you to write the statement. For example, “I am only writing this statement because I am in fear for my safety. I feel Officer Smith has repeatedly threatened me by committing the following acts…” If you give in because the officer has threatened to charge your friend or loved one with a crime, write that into the statement. You are much better off never making a statement. But if you do give in out of fear, be sure and write in the statement what has made you give in.
6. MIRANDA RIGHTS
Miranda Rights protect individuals who are in custody and being questioned by the police. The police are not required to inform a suspect of his or her Miranda Rights if they are not in custody, or are in custody but are not being questioned by the police.
The Miranda decision only applies to statements that are made in response to questioning by the police while a suspect is in custody. Sometimes suspects will tell the police something that is incriminating without the police asking a question or when they are not in custody. These statements cannot be suppressed on the basis that the police failed to read the defendant his or her Miranda Rights.
7. NEVER CONSENT TO A SEARCH
Do not consent to a search without first consulting with a lawyer. Whether the police want to search you, your home, or your vehicle the answer should always be no. Be polite but be firm. Do not resist a search. But do not give your consent for a search either.
If the police ask you if they can search, “Just say No”. By consenting to a search, you are waiving valuable Constitutional rights. Do not give up your rights by giving consent to search. Your refusal to give consent for a search cannot by itself serve as a basis to conduct a search without your consent.
8. IF YOU THINK YOU ARE A SUSPECT TALK TO NO ONE BUT A LAWYER
If you think that there is a chance that you are or will become a suspect in a crime, do not discuss the situation with anyone but a lawyer. If you make statements to anyone other than a lawyer, there is a potential those statements will be used against you. Many times a defendant’s own statements are the government’s best evidence against a defendant.
9. FELONY MURDER
If a suspect is involved in the commission of certain crimes such as armed robbery or burglary, and a person is killed as a result, the suspect can be found guilty of first-degree murder even though they did not personally kill anybody, intend that anyone be killed, or even know that anyone was going to be killed. This is known as felony murder.
Many times individuals find themselves involved in a crime and someone is killed. Far too often these individuals try to explain to the police that they were involved in the crime but that they did not know anyone was going to be killed. When an individual does this, they have confessed to 1st Degree Murder. Do not give a statement. Insist on a lawyer being present before you answer any questions.
10. ASK IF YOU ARE FREE TO LEAVE
If you encounter the police while you are away from your home and the police attempt to question you, ask the officer if you are free to leave. If the officer says that you are free to leave then do so. If the officer says no insist on speaking to an attorney before answering any questions and say nothing more.
If the police come to your house in an attempt to question you ask them to leave. Do not continue a conversation with the police if you think you are a suspect in a crime. If the police are at your door attempting to question you, ask them to leave and just shut the door. You do not have to talk to the police and if you are a suspect in a crime you should not talk to the police without speaking with a lawyer first.