Unless you've never watched a cop show on TV, chances are you have
heard the famous words, "You have the right to remain silent. Anything
you say can and will be used against you in a court of law..."
That is the Miranda warning, and thanks to the landmark Supreme Court case,Miranda v. Arizona , it affords accused persons with a reminder that they have a constitutional
right not to incriminate themselves.
Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
provides that, "[no person] shall be compelled in any criminal case
to be a witness against himself." Those words mean that under no
circumstances, does an accused person ever have to talk to police about
their alleged crime.
If that's the case, and you have an
absolute right against self-incrimination...then why do so many people confess
I believe it's basic psychology. When you are in trouble, your survival
instincts kick in and you trick yourself into believing that if you just
cooperate with the police, everything will work out just fine.
For purposes of this blog entry, let's first dicuss confessions.
A confession is a formal statement given to law enforcement officers. It
is done after the Miranda warning has been read, and the accused has been
informed of his or her rights, including the right to have a
criminal defense attorney in Miami-Dade County present during the interview.
A confession is typically an interview conducted by police detectives with
a suspect in a crime. Since a detective is almost always involved, the
crime is usually serious, such as an aggravated assault or crime involving
grand theft of a vehicle
, an armed robbery, a kidnapping, a
in narcotics (cocaine, marijuana, alprazolam, heroin, etc...), a marijuana
, attempted murder, or manslaughter.
Detectives who conduct these "interviews" may come off as friendly.
They may offer the accused food, water, maybe even a cigarette. They will
come across as genuinely concerned about the accused's well-being.
They are trained extensively in psychology and are likely able to make
you feel comfortable.
However, the law actually permits detectives to
lie to you
during an interrogation. They can tell you they have eyewitnesses when
they don't. They can tell you that your co-defendant has flipped on
you, when he or she hasn't. They can tell you that they have your
fingerprints at the scene of the crime. These coercive and dishonest tactics
are used in an effort to scare you into confessing.
The bottom line is this. If you are ever going to speak with law enforcement
regarding any criminal matter,
under any circumstances do so without first speaking to a
who handles cases in the area of your arrest, be it Miami-Dade County or
Broward County. If you are a suspect in a crime and the police are going
to formally interview you, they must read you the Miranda warning, which
includes the line, "you have the right to have an attorney present."
I recommend you use it. If you are in custody, kindly inform the detectives
that you would like to make a phone call to your attorney. If you do not
have the number of an attorney on you at that time, call your family,
call friends, call anyone who can get in front of a computer and look
up a criminal defense attorney for you on the Internet. Get that number
from your friend or family member, hang up with them, and then call the
attorney. A good criminal defense attorney may be able to get down to
the police station to speak with you in private before you potentially
make statements to police that can literally ruin your life.
As for "spontaneous statements" and admissions...
A spontaneous statement occurs when the accused simply utters something
to police. This happens all the time, usually in cases where detectives
are not involved, such as
driving while license suspended
(DWLS) cases, DUIs, or possession of marijuana. A spontaneous statement
can and will be used against, and since it did not come at the hands of
police interrogation, it does not require a Miranda warning.
A spontaneous statement in a DWLS case may come when the officer approaches
the accused's window during a traffic stop, and the first words out
of the accused's mouth are, "Sorry Officer, I know my license
is suspended." Now why did you just say that? You have just proven
the State's case! The State must prove that you were operating a motor
vehicle in the State of Florida, and that at the time, your license was
suspended and you had knowledge of that suspension. Your spontaneous statement
is the evidence the State needs to prosecute you. And believe me, the
officer will write down your statement in his arrest affidavit, and if
called to testify, he will tell the jury exactly what you said.
In DUI cases, spontaneous statements are common. Usually, it's the
accused telling the officer, "I only had three shots of tequila,"
as if that's going to make the officer change his or her mind about
arresting you. First of all, it won't, secondly, you have just made
the State's case stronger by admitting that you had been drinking,
and furthermore, how much you had to drink.
The main point of all of this is, do not talk to the police if you are
under investigation. This includes a traffic stop. If an officer pulls
you over for speeding and asks, "Do you know how fast you were going?"
Don't tell him, even if you do know. It's none of his business,
and it's your constitutional right not to incriminate yourself.
For more serious offenses, this is even more important. In a case with
weak evidence, a confession can be the key to a conviction.
Your silence can never be used against you. No jury in the world will ever
hear that you invoked your Miranda right and did not speak to the police.
Instead, the State will have to proceed with whatever evidence they have.
If it's not much, your chances of acquittal are tremendously higher
than if a seasoned detective takes the stand and your confession is introduced
to the jury.
Police officers are not your friends. They are sworn agents of the State,
County, or City. It is their job to solve crimes. They work hand-in-hand
with the prosecutors and only want to see you convicted for the crimes
they suspect you have committed.
If you are under investigation,
, a criminal defense attorney who practices in Miami and Broward. I may
be able to advise you and prevent you from incriminating yourself. On
the other hand, if you have already confessed to a crime, call me anyway.
Confessions can be suppressed if police did not follow proper protocol.
Call me to schedule a free, confidential consultation where we can go
over the details of your confession to see if we have any legal grounds
for getting that confession thrown out.