When you come under the scrutiny of the law, the pressure and stress can cause you to make a decision that can cause you more pain in the end. You should know how to avoid getting entangled in the criminal justice system.
If you have been accused or charged
#1: Remain Silent
First of all, exercise your right to remain silent. The only person you should speak to is an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
One of the biggest problems we face in helping people who are caught up in the criminal justice system is that more than 90% of them make statements to the police which are used against them when the case goes to court.
#2: Do not consent to any search
If police officers or investigators want to search your home, your car, your luggage, you have the right to say NO. It is almost always in your best interests to do so. Even if you think you have nothing to hide, you cannot be certain of what search can turn up and what can be used against you.
Know How To Interact with Police
The police are well-trained in getting people to make statements against their own interests. Officers or investigators may come on strong, or friendly, or concerned, or they "just want to clear up something" for their own understanding. Everything they do or say is designed to get you to incriminate yourself because they assume that you are probably guilty. (This does not mean that the police are bad people, it is just how they protect themselves while doing their job. They have to assume that everyone is guilty, so they can be ready for anything that might happen.)
Do not be concerned that the police will think that you have something to hide if you refuse to talk with them. (They may already think that, anyway.) Their mere suspicion does not affect your legal interests. Your statements will.
Even if you are innocent, that does not mean that you can speak freely to the police and expect that things will work out for you. Understand that investigators do not view the matter the same way that you do; and if they think you may be involved, they may try to take advantage of your mistaken belief that you are not considered a suspect. You may unknowingly end up saying something that seems innocent and meaningless to you but fits with some officer's conclusions as to your involvement in what happened.
It does not matter whether you write a statement, or sign a statement, or submit to a tape-recorded interview. Any statement you make may be used against you, even if it is just something that you say and some officer happens to overhear.
It does not matter much if the police do not read you your "Miranda" rights. If you speak voluntarily, your statements may be used against you. "Miranda" only comes into play if the police actually question you, and even then, only if you are in their custody during questioning. (There are also exceptions to the "Miranda" rule, which the police know about, and you don't.)
No matter how smart, or clever, or lucky you are, when you talk to the police, you are talking to someone who knows the rules of the game a whole lot better than you do, and they are trained to get what they want from you. So please do not talk! If you say only that you want to speak with a lawyer, then do not speak with the officers further. It is almost always the best thing you can do for yourself, innocent or not.
Do not talk to anyone about your involvement, nor should you even claim not to be involved, in connection with any criminal charge. The person you talk to may be made to talk with the police, or they may want to do so, in order to protect themselves from some charge.
What You Should Know About Searches
If police officers or investigators want to search your home, your car, your luggage, you have the right to say NO. It is almost always in your best interests to do so. Even if you think you have nothing to hide, are you certain that the friend you picked up at the airport is carrying no contraband? Are you certain that nobody who has been in your car (since you cleaned it last) left or dropped anything that might be considered contraband? Do you truly know what might be considered illegal contraband? What about that antique your spouse brought home? Are you sure it wasn't stolen, then sold to the person from whom your spouse purchased it? Did the price on that CD player you bought from a relative carry a price too low to be real? You get the idea.
A search may turn up something illegal, whether or not you are aware of it. Possessing stolen property, or drug residue, or any other contraband, will get you arrested. The truth about your knowledge, or lack thereof, will likely not convince the police and will have to come out at trial. Meanwhile, your arrest makes the evening news. It will probably not be in your best interests to attempt to explain to the police or to speculate with the investigators as to how the contraband came into your possession.
But maybe you can avoid the whole problem if you simply tell the police that you DO NOT CONSENT TO A SEARCH. If they do not have a search warrant, they have to leave you and your property alone (unless they have some other legal basis to search). This will give you time to contact a lawyer, who may be able to find out what they are looking for, and why the police want to search your belongings. If the police search despite your protest, the court may later decide that whatever the police found may not be used against you at trial.
Stopped on the Road- What to Know
If you are stopped on the road, the police will want to search your car. A frequent occurrence these days is that they stop any vehicle carrying young people or non-whites; cars with out-of-state plates; any vehicle that is not operating in line with the officer's notions of "normal" operation, for any possible Motor Vehicle violation (for example, 5 miles over the speed limit, rapid lane change, broken tail light, license plate covered with snow, "erratic operation").
Then they ask if they can look around your car. They frequently ask "Is there anything in your car you don't want me to see?" There is obviously no good answer you can give to such a question. If you say no, they will then ask why you do not want them to search, in an attempt to play on your guilt and get you to allow them to search or to admit that you are carrying contraband. If you answer the question with "yes", they have you. You have given them "probable cause" to search your car (which they did not have until you answered) and you have made a statement that may be used against you later in court. (They may have the legal right to search your car, anyway, depending on the reason for the stop, and what happens at the scene, but you make things worse if you do not clearly indicate that you do not consent.)
If you get any advice from someone who has been in jail, and especially if they have been in jail more than once, please consider the source. If they know so much about the law, why have they gone to jail? How smart can they be? Do yourself a favor and talk with a lawyer instead.
Get the help of an experienced attorney
Relying on legal advice from anyone except an experienced defense lawyer can be a big mistake. Since you have attorney-client privilege with your lawyer, wait to speak to him or her first before agreeing to anything.
The Law Office of Ted Barnes provides criminal defense representation if you are under investigation by authorities or have been charged with a crime.
My first priority is to get you out of jail or to prevent you from being held. After that, we will discuss your account of the events that led to your arrest so that I can offer the best possible representation.
After a careful review of your circumstances, I will give you a rundown of what to expect and all your possible options at each stage. The goal is to avoid jail time and seek sentencing alternatives when discussing the likelihood of success. I will personally introduce you to the court process so you know where your case may end up. Flat fees and hourly rates are available depending on your level of risk.