Everyone arrested in the United States, citizen or not, has a constitutional right to not have to testify against themselves by invoking or “pleading” the Fifth Amendment, which states that “no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” In other words, you don’t have to testify in court as a defendant, and you also don’t have to speak to the police. This is because any statement you make can be used against you during court proceedings, which can lead to you potentially self-incriminating yourself.
Here are some ways that you can prevent something like this from happening:
*Perhaps the best and most important thing that you can do is to hire an attorney, especially if you are involved in any type of criminal incident. This will prevent you from having to speak to the police in the event that they come to your home. An attorney will be able to advise you on how you can protect all of your legal rights, as well as provide you with their phone number that you can contact them at in the event that you get arrested.
*Even though the police may come into contact with you as a witness, they may actually believe that you’re a suspect. Whatever you say could potentially be used against you in court, regardless of whether or not you’re a suspect. If you know you’re innocent of something, but feel you are being treated as a suspect, you should tell the police to contact your attorney, as, again, you would not be required to answer any questions. On the other hand, some states require that you identify yourself to the police when asked to do so, such as providing your name, address, and birthdate.
*Don’t believe any promises that the police make to you, as this is something that’s generally done in order to get someone to talk. For instance, the police may promise to not make any kind of a statement against you, or even tell you that if you give them information, they can make your problems go away by telling you that you aren’t a suspect. The police are allowed to, and do frequently, lie during investigations.
*Don’t speak to other people about a criminal incident, as doing so can cause that type of information to be used against you during a trial. Always keep a low profile.
*If you end up getting arrested, always pay attention when your Miranda rights are being read to you. Prior to being questioned by the police, they are required to provide you with Miranda rights; however, keep in mind that any statement you make can potentially be used against you in court.
*Make a clear request that you do not want to speak to the police. Unless you do this, you will continue to be questioned. You will need to repeat this every time the police ask you if you wish to talk.
*Make a request for an attorney after clearly stating that you want to remain silent.
*Avoid speaking to the police. Following requesting an attorney, the police won’t be able to continue questioning you; however, if you decide to then strike up a conversation with them, they could then begin questioning you once again.
*Speak to your attorney regarding your interrogation, as you may be able to have incriminating statements thrown out of court. This is something that can happen, for instance, if the police made a mistake while questioning you, such as coercing you to confess to something, denying you food and/or water, or not being read all of your Miranda rights.
*Have your attorney introduce a motion to suppress, which can help get statements thrown out of court. Your attorney can then argue this on your behalf, and in order to win, it must be identified that the police acted improperly while interrogating you. The prosecutor can then respond to the motion, with the judge scheduling a time for the argument to be read. A victory for you will mean that the prosecutor will not legally be able to use any incriminating statement against you as part of their case.
*In the event that you’re convicted, go to a higher court to appeal your conviction. Be sure to state any mistakes that the judge may have made during the initial case, such as refusing to suppress your statements. Winning your appeal will mean that you will be able to get a new trial.
Thank you for visiting the Jarvis, Garcia & Erskine blog, an Austin criminal defense lawyer firm. We write to inform locals about news, events and law changes.