Many of us believe that our statements become important and can be used against us only after we are given what are commonly known as our Miranda warnings, and answer “yes” to each warning. We’ve all heard theses warnings, and some of us can even recite them off the top of our heads. It’s all over television, on all of the (mostly legally inaccurate) crime dramas on network television.
Not these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T45aF1NLMyM
What are “statements?” Statements are anything you say at all, in any context, not just in an interrogation room.
Yes, there are many situations where these warnings must be given, such as if you are brought into a police precinct by police officers or detectives and questioned about a crime where you are a potential suspect (another problem is, most of the time you are not told that you are a potential suspect). If these warnings are not properly given when they should be, all the statements can be thrown out and be unusable at trial. However, that is an issue that must be litigated by your attorney and the prosecution that is usually done after the arrest has already been made, and the decision is ultimately in the judge’s hands.
The problem is, there are many exceptions to this rule, and thousands of cases are prosecuted each year based on statements where the defendant was NOT given his Miranda warnings at all. How?
Here’s an example:
If you are conducting what is, from a cop’s perspective, “potentially criminal activity,” you can be approached and questioned. What may seem to you to be a casual and innocent discussion may be the cop’s way of gathering evidence against you, even if he is not asking you directly incriminating questions or is even behaving as if you are a suspect.
The most important things to know when speaking to police in any context are:
1. You don’t always need to be given Miranda warnings in order for your words to be used against you.
2. Police are legally allowed to lie to you to gather evidence of a crime.
3. Everything you say is potential evidence against you at trial.
4. Most importantly, under our law, your words can be the ONLY evidence against you in a criminal case, and have resulted in scores of convictions.
So what does this mean for you?
To protect yourself and to give yourself the best possible defense, limit what you say to police in any context without an attorney present. You should always be on the defensive when speaking to any kind of law enforcement, whether it be a beat cop patrolling the streets, a seasoned detective, or a prosecutor.
It is not just the words “I did it” that can potentially weaken your defense—law enforcement is trained to find holes in your story. The fewer words you speak, the fewer holes they can find.
Remember the first Miranda warning: YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT.
Remember another crucial Miranda warning: YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE AN ATTORNEY PRESENT DURING ANY AND ALL QUESTIONING, NOW OR IN THE FUTURE.
There are little to no contexts, short of a subpoena issued for you to testify in court, where these rights can be taken from you. Even then, you have protections when you have your attorney batting for you.
Do not allow manipulation tactics, “good cop/bad cop” scenarios, or promises of “talking to the prosecutor” to help your case. Most of the time, none of this will happen. If you can be legally prosecuted, you will be prosecuted.
There is no benefit in taking a chance that a law enforcement officer is actually going to look out for you. Any deals made with law enforcement should be in writing and done with an attorney present who has your best interests at heart.
We believe, above all, that your liberty is your best interest.