When you are suspected of, or have been arrested, for a serious crime, you may think you know more about the process than you actually do. This is due to the constant bombardment of fictional dramas and media bias that are regularly served up on TV and in the movies. Knowing the truth can impress on you the importance of protecting your legal rights, and if you are ever called to duty, you can be a more informed juror.
1. Only Guilty People Confess
It has been proven over and over again that some innocent people do confess to crimes they didn't commit. Sometimes a detainee can begin to believe they are guilty, misunderstand what they are agreeing to, or cave in due to questionable interview techniques that police may use. Suspects who are mentally ill, don't have any outside support, are under-educated, or are not very intelligent, are especially vulnerable to this.
Be suspicious of police tactics if you are about to be subjected to an interview that is not going to be videotaped or recorded.
2. People Who Accept a Plea Are Guilty
Even though fictional shows like Law and Order usually only show guilty people accepting a plea after being convinced that the evidence against them is overwhelming, it is worth noting that many people often take a plea deal even when innocent. This is often because they don't feel they have the means to dispute the evidence against them, and are told if they go to trial and lose, the punishment will be much more severe.
3. If You Are Broke, an Attorney Will Be Provided for You
If you are charged with a felony, you may be provided with a court-appointed attorney. However, this protection does not apply to certain misdemeanor or infraction offenses, and depending on the severity of your charge, you could be facing up to six months of jail time, fines, probation or other punishments for these type of charges. If the public defender system if very over-burdened where you live, you may have to wait a long time to receive legal assistance, or you may be pressured into a plea agreement by a court appointed attorney.
4. You Have a Constitutional Right to a Phone Call
There is no constitutional "right to one phone call." The state you were arrested in may have a law that will give you this right, along with laying down restrictions on the number of calls you can make, to whom and for what purpose, etc.
5. If Your Rights Have Been violated, Your Case will be Thrown out
If your rights have been violated at some point, such as being subjected to an illegal search and seizure, it is only the evidence that was obtained in this manner that may be excluded for trial. If the prosecution believes they still have sufficient evidence for a conviction, they will still proceed with the case.
6. CSI Type Techniques Are Always Used and Will Exonerate You
Many local police departments do not have the kind of technology or equipment shown on the media, and they also may not have the budgets to do all sorts of sophisticated testing at a crime scene. It often takes a lot longer to receive results back when testing is done.
When preparing to go to trial, the prosecution may be relying much more on old-fashioned methods like witness testimony, which may or may not be a good thing for you.
Unfortunately, bias can also creep in with experts and police, and the evidence collected can be selectively used to favor a suspect that the police believe is guilty. A case against you may seem strong, but have a weak link somewhere in the logic, and a skilled defense attorney will often be able to discern this.
7. Your Miranda Rights Will Protect You from Self-Incrimination
You should be informed of your Miranda rights when you are being arrested. However, many people don't realize that the words they speak and the behavior they display before the actual arrest are fair game for prosecutors to bring up in court. It is possible that you could be answering questions freely because you have been led to believe you are free to go, when the police are planning to detain you, but haven't yet. If you start talking and then quit later, everything you said previously can be brought up, plus the fact that you clammed up when certain questions were asked.
Also, if the police do not plan to question you, they may not give you the Miranda warning. (For more information, contact McKone & Unruh)
If you are charged with a serious crime, you should consult with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible, and submit to questioning only while they are present, whether you are guilty or innocent. Otherwise, you could be jeopardizing your defense and plea options.