Every person has the Constitutional right to remain silent if you are being questioned by any law enforcement officer. I strongly encourage you to exercise that right until you have had the opportunity to speak with an attorney. I have written on this topic before and I think it is important enough to write about again. If you are approached by law enforcement you do not have to answer any questions. Under our Constitution you cannot be compelled to give testimony against yourself.
If you are confronted by law enforcement you need to understand that officers may be helpful and friendly when answering a call at you house. They may be helpful when aiding you if you break down on the side of the road. But if they suspect you of a crime they are not your friend. They are your adversary and they do not have your best interest at heart. If you are approached by law enforcement you should identify yourself and provide identification but if they begin to question you about a crime or any details that suggest you have been guilty of a crime, you have a right to request a lawyer before making any statement. Regardless of what the law enforcement says to you, there is no such thing as an “off the record” conversation. Anything you say can and may be used against you if the prosecution chooses.
The advice we give can be hard to follow. Police officers and Detectives can be very persuasive. They study techniques on how to convince a person to make a statement. The United States Supreme Court has approved a procedure that actually permits law enforcement to lie to a citizen. When an officer or detective wants a statement, they will say anything to get it from the citizen. My partner Chuck Mullins and I recently handled a case involving a statement from our client. The statement was video taped by the law enforcement. During the statement the law enforcement tried several different techniques trying to get our client to confess to a crime she did not commit. They promised to go “to the Judge and D.A. to help her.” They offered false sympathy in order to get her to confess. They appealed to her civic interest and her fear. No matter what they said, our client would not admit to a crime she did not commit. Fortunately, the jury agreed she was innocent.
I do not want to convey the wrong impression. Law officers are out trying to do a job. Most are good. Some are bad. Others will do whatever it takes to get a conviction. If you are charged with a crime, you need advice before you make any statements to police. If you or a loved one has a criminal problem call us before making a statement. We can give you practical, helpful advice. Call 601-948-1600.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.