I have written on this topic before, but I handled a motion to suppress hearing recently and it reminded me that this is always a hot topic in Florida criminal law. We have all seen or heard stories of people who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes based on false confessions. These individuals may have been pressured into a false confession or had their words taken out of context. In many situations, people trying end up in hot water for reasons outside of their control.
False confessions are common, among young and vulnerable suspects, mentally disabled individuals, and adults. Speaking to the police may seem like a good idea, especially if you know you are innocent. However, it is not wise to speak to the police on your own. Keep reading to learn why you should never speak to the police without a lawyer.
You cannot talk your way out of an arrest
Despite how it may seem, it is not productive to talk to the police. The decision to arrest you has typically been made before the officers meet with you. Law enforcement officers cannot help you if you are arrested or suspected of a crime. Your guilt or innocence does not have any bearing on interactions with the police. Even if you think that you are savvy when it comes to legal matters, talking to the police will not help.
There is no rush to speak to the police, even if you are innocent. Some people may fear that staying quiet will make them look guilty, but that is not the case. You do not need to prove your innocence to the police. If the police are determined to arrest you, you cannot talk your way out of the situation. The time to “tell your side of the story” will come much later. It is rarely the case that what you say on the day that you are arrested will change the fact that you are going to jail. So, be quiet and let your lawyer do the talking. Keep in mind that the first line of the Miranda warning is “you have the right to remain silent.” It is a right and you should use it, every time.
There is a time and place to admit guilt
If you are guilty and want admit guilt, there is a better time and place to do so. The police can continue their work, and you can speak to your attorney about your available options. There are some circumstances where a case may be dismissed entirely before a confession is needed.
Individuals may be guilty of a lesser crime, and it is crucial that they do not confess to a higher offense. Your attorney can examine any mitigating factors that would impact a charge. These factors can all serve as bargaining chips for a case and ensure you do not receive a heftier punishment than what is deserved.
Even the innocent can make a mistake
If you are totally innocent, it can be tempting to talk to the police. After all, you did nothing wrong. However, that is not always the case. The longer you speak to police, the more likely you are to unknowingly confess to something or make a mistake. In some cases, a mistake can send you to jail or prison. The innocence project has handled many cases where a false confession led to a unjust prison sentence.
When you speak to the police, they will record your statement and use the information against you later. In subsequent interviews or during trial, you may be asked to recount your story again. If the accounts do not line up exactly, you could be subject to extensive cross examination by a prosecutor. An honest mistake or misunderstanding can make it look like you are lying.
Information can be used against you
As you talk to police, you may unknowingly make incriminating statements. Seemingly harmless or inconsequential details can be used against you later. Even if you are completely innocent, everything you say to the police is up for grabs. Part of a police officer's training is to obtain a confession or admission and search for inconsistencies. As their training kicks in, your words can be used as evidence of guilt.
Statements that are misheard, documented incorrectly, taken out of context, or misunderstood can make the case against you stronger. When officers testify in court, it is all too easy for words to be misconstrued and twisted to fit a specific narrative.
The police cannot make a deal
The police are not able to make deals. They cannot grant leniency or offer plea agreements for your cooperation. Police officers may say they can offer a deal or work out an arrangement to encourage you to talk, but they are not required to tell the truth. It is legal for the police to lie to you. All police officers are taught to lie and mislead people during an interview. If you want to reach a plea or receive any leniency, you must work through your attorney.
You do not know what they know
Are you aware of every single criminal statute? Do you know all the rules of evidence and how those rules are interpreted? Do you know all of the evidence that they have gathered prior to meeting with you? A lack of knowledge leaves you at a significant disadvantage when speaking to the police.
Having an experienced lawyer present ensures that you know all the rules. You can help align your intentions and your words by working with an attorney who understands the ins and outs of criminal procedure. Judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement are already aware of the rules, and you should be too before you speak.
What should you say to the police?
The police are powerful authority figures. That alone is enough to make most people start talking. Nerves and anxiety can get the best of anyone.
The only information you are legally obligated to give to the police is your name and identifying information (like your driver's license). You do not have to say anything further to the police. Whether you are stopped on the side of the road, or officers come to your front door, the rules are the same. Instead, all you have to say is that you want a lawyer. From there, it is wise to be quiet and follow your attorney's advice to obtain the best possible outcome.
It is human nature to answer a person who has asked you a question. From the time we are children we are taught to be polite and to respect authority. It is hard to resist the urge to answer a question. The police know this, and they use it against you. Every detail in a police interview is orchestrated to get you talking and to keep you talking. Do not do it.
We are with you every step of the way. 24 hours a day every day. Contact me today to discuss your case.