10 Things Everyone Suspected of a Crime Should Know
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.
1. Innocent people get arrested and go to prison.
Many people believe if they have not done anything wrong, they have nothing to worry about if they are accused of committing a crime. This is a dangerous thought that even Judges worn against. In writing his opinion in the case of Johnson v. Louisiana, (406 U.S. 356) Justice Douglas of the United Prosecutions 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 get suspected and charged with crimes and face the option of conviction. It can happen to anyone. 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. 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, focus on the following:
- 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.
- 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; however, 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 and 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. Lies Officers might say may include such things as:
- They have an eyewitness that can identify you, so you might as well tell them what happened.
- 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.
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 law enforcement officers have been known to do things like threaten a suspect with physical violence or threatening to charge a family or loved ones with a crime if you do not talk. Don’t fall for these tricks.
If you do feel compelled to give in to their threats, 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, you can write, “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 or 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 suspected, only talk with 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. 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.
10. Serious accusations require serious lawyers.
If you are suspected of a serious crime, you need a serious lawyer. You should consider hiring a trial lawyer, even if you are not planning on proceeding to trial, you should consider hiring a lawyer with significant jury trial experience. Most of the time there are many opportunities to resolve a criminal case long before it reaches a jury trial. However, there is no guarantee that the prosecutor in your case will see the case from your perspective or offer a resolution that you feel that you can live with. If the prosecutor assigned to your case does not treat you fairly without a trial lawyer representing you, proceeding to jury trial may not be a viable option.