What is a confession? Is it the same as an incriminating statement, and what, if anything, does a Miranda warning have to do with it?
There’s no question that in a stressful situation, your nerves can get the better of you. For some people, this results in an unfortunate tendency to talk too much. It can easily happen to someone who believes he’s in danger of being placed under arrest. Unfortunately, the police are legally required to read you your Miranda rights only after they have taken you into custody. By this time, however, you may already have said too much.
The police are aware of this tendency, and they know how to use it against you. Right up front, they may ask you, “What did you do it for?” and if you say something thoughtless like, “I needed the money,” don’t be surprised to you find your statement used against you at a subsequent trial.
Few things can cause more damage to your case than having the prosecution turn your own words into evidence against you. Your Miranda rights serve as a warning to watch what you say lest you incriminate yourself.
The Truth About Your Miranda Rights
One thing to know about Miranda rights is that by law, the police do not always have to read them. They don’t have to read them when detaining you briefly on the street or at a traffic stop. They don’t even have to read them when they place you into custody. However, once you are officially under arrest, they must legally do so before asking you any questions. If they fail to read your Miranda rights and you do say something damaging to your case, the prosecutor can be stopped from using these self-incriminating statements against you.
Regardless of whether the police have or have not read you your Miranda rights, it is vital to remember that these rights will not protect you against any damaging statements you happen to make voluntarily:
- Before being placed into custody.
- During a brief stop.
- To a trusted friend or undercover cop.
While Miranda does grant you the right to refuse to incriminate yourself during a police interrogation, nothing will stop the prosecution from using any damaging statements you choose to make willingly, regardless of when or to whom you make them. There is one way to avoid the problem altogether, and that’s by refusing to answer the questions of any member of law enforcement who happens to suspect you of criminal activity.
Do’s and Don’ts When Under Investigation
Many people wonder when it is safe to speak with the police and when it is better to keep your mouth shut. The answer is that if you yourself are under criminal investigation, there is only one thing that you should say, and that is that you want to speak to your lawyer.
There are many reasons for this. Chief among them is the fact that members of law enforcement are legally permitted to coerce you into incriminating yourself. They can and will even lie to you if they think that it will do the trick. On the other hand, it is not unknown for law enforcement to potentially misinterpret the things that you are telling them or deliberately twist your words in their effort to prove your guilt. This sort of thing has been known to happen to innocent people who were open and aboveboard with the police in an honest attempt at being helpful.
While it is always in your best interests to remain silent, don’t ever tell the police that you are doing this in honor of your constitutional right. While you do have this legal right, the prosecution could later use the fact that you invoked it as proof that you are guilty. It will always be best to do nothing more than ask for an attorney, and then retain one immediately.
When the Police Have Failed to Read Your Miranda Rights
It is a common belief that any failure on the part of law enforcement to read you your Miranda rights could lead to a dismissal of your case. This is a misconception. However, since the statements in question will have been obtained illegally, this violation could lead to their later suppression at trial.
The criminal defense attorneys at Weiner Law Group understand the importance of suppressing any damaging statements you may have made before, during or after your arrest. If you should find yourself in this situation, remember to say nothing at all beyond asking for a lawyer. Then, call Weiner Law Group as soon as possible at 702-202-0500 today.