You have the right to remain silent. Sounds so simple. But in too many cases, people get themselves into trouble that could have been avoided if they had just exercised that right.
We are all taught from a young age to obey authority figures. Aside from parents, there is often no greater authority figure in a child's life than a police officer. Add to that the fact that most of us want to do the right thing. We all want to help law enforcement catch the bad guys. Unfortunately, it can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to making statements in a criminal investigation - whether your own or someone else's.
Everyone who has ever watched television knows a defendant "has the right to remain silent." So why does the presence of a police officer make so many defendants' mouths begin to run? if you are arrested in Scranton your best option, indeed your only good option, is to remain silent and contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The right to remain silent is constitutionally protected
"God bless the Bill of Rights and God bless the Fifth Amendment. I am proud to say I will never talk to any police officer under any circumstances," says Regent Law School Professor James Duane in a YouTube lecture. Duane is also a former defense attorney.
Duane's lecture was followed by the presentation of a police officer, who started by acknowledging the wisdom of Duane's advice. Some of Duane's reasons for never talking to investigators:
- There is NO WAY it can help. "You can't talk yourself out of being arrested," Duane said, noting even information you tell police that could be helpful to your case cannot be used at trial under hearsay rules of evidence.
- May admit guilt without benefit. If police have statements indicating your guilt, your criminal defense attorney will have much less room to bargain for a lesser sentence or dismissal of the charges.
- More than 25 percent of people released from prison as a result of DNA evidence through the Innocence Project were found to have been convicted based on their statements to police.
- Even the innocent who tell the truth may make mistakes that can be seen as incriminating by law enforcement.
- Even if you are innocent, and tell nothing but the truth, and make no mistakes, you will always give police some information they may use in their theory to obtain a conviction.
- The police may not recall your statements accurately.
In fact, in one defining Fifth Amendment case (Ohio v. Reiner, 532 U.S. 17,20 (2001)), the United States Supreme Court stated, "One of the Fifth Amendment's basic functions is to protect innocent men who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances. Truthful responses of an innocent witness, as well as those of a wrongdoer, may provide the government with incriminating evidence from the speaker's own month."
In that case, the nation's high court ruled a babysitter had a Fifth Amendment right to not make a statement despite contending no involvement with the death of a shaken baby.
Our Scranton criminal defense attorneys would also note that statements and evidence posted to Facebook and other social media are increasingly used in court. If you are facing criminal charges, there is only one person you should be talking to: your defense attorney.