Should you talk to the police?
No. And definitely not without an experienced criminal defense attorney present.
It is surprisingly difficult to follow this rule. When a police officer wants to speak with you, there is a natural instinct to want to explain yourself. Perhaps it is the fear that if you don’t start explaining, you will be arrested. The problem with this theory is that when the police officer comes to speak with you about a crime (assuming you are not the victim or a witness), that officer is probably going to arrest you anyway. In fact, as a general rule, the more a police officer wants to speak with you, the more that officer needs a statement from you to make the charges stick.
One of the biggest problems with talking to the police is that you will have no idea what the officer knows about a case already. And, the officer is allowed to LIE to you! A police officer is under no obligation to tell you the truth about what he or she knows and the officer can lie to you to get you to talk. These two facts put you in a very difficult position when trying to talk your way out of being arrested. When you decide to talk to the police officer and start making statements that are inconsistent with whatever the officer knows, the officer now assumes you are lying to him or her. You will be arrested and the inconsistencies between your story and whatever the officer already knows will be brought out before a jury.
There are thousands of people in prison today who simply would not be there if they had managed to keep their mouths shut when the police came to speak with them. So, as hard as it is to do so, learn this phrase:
I do not wish to speak with you. I want my lawyer!
If the police don’t read me my rights, can I get my case dismissed?
A common misconception about your rights is that failure of a police officer to read your rights does not automatically result in dismissal of your case. The United States Supreme Court decided in a case called Miranda v. Arizona, that before a police officer could interrogate a suspect in custody, the police must inform that suspect he or she has certain rights. The Court further decided that failure by the police to follow this rule would result in the exclusion of any statements obtained by the police from the suspect at the suspect’s trial. Let’s look a little closer at this rule.
The first criteria for the Miranda rule to apply is that the person be in custody. Custody has many different meanings under the law, but for Miranda purposes, it basically means under arrest. If you are brought to the police station in the back of police car and told you can’t leave or locked in a room or handcuffed (as examples), you are likely in custody for Miranda purposes. The specific facts of your case will be very important to your criminal defense attorney so he or she can determine whether your Miranda rights were violated.
The second criteria for the Miranda rule to apply is that the police need to be conducting an interrogation. This simply means the police need to be asking some questions. If you are sitting in a holding cell, clearly in custody, and you start talking without the police officer asking you any questions, it doesn’t matter that you have not been read your rights. Your statements will be used against you.
If the police have you in their custody and they are asking you questions, then the third criteria for the Miranda rule to apply arises: did the police read you your rights? The police must tell you you have the right to remain silent, that anything you say can be used against you, that you have the right to an attorney, and that if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. The police can make no promises or threats to force you to make a statement. You must give the statement of your own free will. If the police have you in their custody and they fail to read your rights to you and they ask you questions and you answer those questions, your statements CANNOT be used against you.
Once the police have read you your rights, they must obtain a voluntary waiver of those rights from you before they can question you. That is why they tell you that they can’t threaten you or promise you anything to get you to talk. Implied threats and promises can be a basis to argue to the judge that your waiver of your rights was not voluntary and therefore, your statement should be excluded.
If the police follow these rules, and you chose to give a statement to them, your statement will be admissible at your trial. If they fail to follow these rules, then your criminal defense attorney may be able to convince the judge to throw your statement out before the trial even begins. It is important to remember, however, that the exclusion of your statement will not always result in your charges being dropped or dismissed. Often times, the prosecutor has other evidence of your guilt besides your statement and, although their case is significantly weakened by the exclusion of your statement, they still may proceed if they so choose.
You are probably being recorded
Whenever you have an encounter with police, know this: you are probably being recorded! Of course, this is not a guarantee, but you should be very wary of this fact. In today’s society, everything is recorded. Police cruisers are often, though not always, equipped with in car video cameras. Those cameras record you when you are doing your DUI roadsides and they record you when you are on your way from the scene to the police department in the back of a cruiser. You are even more likely to be recorded once you enter the police station. As you sit in that small white room with the two chairs, one table, one door, and no windows, look up in the corner… you will probably see a video camera. And it is probably on!
Why is this important? Because everything you say can, and will, be used against you. The statements you made will be played in front of the jury at your trial, which brings us back to the original point: DO NOT SPEAK TO THE POLICE.
Contact a West Palm Beach, Florida law firm you can trust
Contact Scott Berry Law, P.A. at the West Palm Beach, Florida office by calling 561-370-7420 or contact the firm online.