SUMMARY: your freedom is too important to gamble with. Not only should you not talk to the police when accused of a crime, or when you find yourself in an interrogation setting, you should not talk to the police, period. Instead, rely on these simple words: “I want to speak to a lawyer.” Read the importance of staying quiet.
Note: This article is not legal advice, just general information.
After decades of criminal defense practice, I still come across countless people and clients who say the same thing when they encounter the police: “why should I stay quiet if I have nothing to hide, Chuck?”
I understand that person’s concern, and his or her desire to resolve the situation at the moment. However, offering up answers, information, and statements voluntarily is not within the best interests of the person.
For example, I’ve seen clients who have come to me and explained their case. It could be a simple assault, a pullover that went bad, a DUI, or even a domestic dispute. They then tell me that once they explained what happened to the officer, something goes wrong. Either they made a mistake when explaining the issue, the police interpreted the story as a lie, or the officer misremembered what was told.
In the end, the client gets charged with a crime, and their own explanations are used against them at a later trial.
There is a takeaway in all of this: statements you offer to the police may incriminate you, even if you did nothing wrong.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT
The 5th Amendment of our U.S. Constitution protects your right to remain silent. That means that if you invoke your right to remain silent, the Constitution requires that your silence will not be considered evidence that can be used against you at trial. The jury will never hear that you refused to speak.
In other words, the issue isn’t necessarily about hiding something, but rather preserving your ability to defend yourself at a later time. Besides our U.S. Constitution, Arizona’s own state Constitution states that no person shall be compelled to testify against their own defense.
Arizona law enforcement officers must inform you of your right to remain silent, and your right to an attorney before conducting a custodial interrogation—the point where you cannot leave the situation and are asked questions. Officers must recite the Miranda Warnings, which begin with,
“you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney…”
This language might sound familiar if you’ve ever watch CSI or Law and Order. Maybe Dragnet for you older folks…
THE ORIGINAL MIRANDA CASE
The Miranda Warnings originated in Arizona, and involved Ernesto Miranda, who was charged with a crime back in 1963. He was interrogated for hours of his crime but was never told that he had the right to “remain silent”, or that he had a “right to an attorney” to be present during the questioning. Eventually, Ernesto confessed and was convicted of the crime. His conviction was based mostly on his confession.
Ernesto appealed his conviction, and the Supreme Court ruled that detained criminal suspects like Ernesto must be informed of the right to remain silent and an attorney before questioning. As a result of the case, the Miranda Rule was created: when someone is arrested, they must be given the warnings before any interrogation or questioning begins.
Thanks to Miranda, if you are not read your Miranda rights after your arrest and prior to any custodial interrogation, then your answers and confessions cannot be used against you by the State. If an officer does not properly give those warnings, then there may be a way to have your attorney suppress your statements for purposes of trial.
To put it simply folks, speaking to the police without an attorney almost never helps you, or your case. Whether you are charged with an assault, DUI, drug charge, sex offense, or murder, you should never answer questions unless and until you have a lawyer with you.
Remember, when asked a question by police, simply say, “I invoke my right to remain silent and my right to an attorney.” The officer must respect your invocation and allow you to call an attorney.
NEVER OFFER UP INFORMATION DURING A CRIMINAL CASE
I cannot count how many times I’ve heard clients come to me and say, “the officer told me that it would be easier to just answer his or her questions.” My response is the same every time: no it will not.
Some officers, and most detectives, are trained to elicit information from those in custody. They are trained to seek out and obtain confessions, admissions, and inconsistencies with answers.
WON’T IT MAKE ME LOOK GUILTY IF I DON’T TALK TO THE POLICE?
Absolutely not! Judges, state prosecutors, and police officers know the rules. Remember, Miranda affords you the constitutional right to remain silent. Once you invoke the right to an attorney, you create a buffer between you and the police.
The best part? You can fully explain your story without the state misconstruing your words. The prosecutor cannot say to the jury that you refused to speak to the police. In fact, they can’t even mention it.
To those who are still unconvinced, let me put it another way: you can always get your side of the story out, but why would you do it without knowing the rules of the game?
You may think you are talking yourself out of an arrest, but in reality, you are admitting to the elements of the crime. Do not allow officers to persuade you into answering questions when you do not have to.
If you have been arrested and questioned for a crime in Arizona, give me a call at call (480) 545 – 0700, or visit Chuck Franklin Law. You have rights, know them.
Acquitting Arizonans from criminal charges since 1987.