When you are the target of a police investigation, your most important civil right is probably going to be your right to remain silent. However, not all people understand that it is their responsibility to exercise that right once they are detained. Too often, I talk to people who didn’t exercise their right to remain silent and end up getting themselves into even more trouble.
As a criminal defense attorney, it pains me to learn that my clients could have been facing a lesser charge had they only kept their mouths shut. However, I understand that in the heat of moment, people will say things they don’t mean, or admit to things they didn’t do after being coerced by a police officer who makes it seem like everything will be just fine. If you don’t know the details of Miranda Rights, then you should basically know one thing—don’t say anything until you’ve spoken to an attorney.
Regardless of what police officers say or don’t say to you, and even if you a completely innocent bystander who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, retaining your right to remain silent is the first rule for protecting your rights during a police investigation. In some instances, suspects are scared to assert their Miranda Rights because they were intimidated by police, so they begin divulging information that gets them into further trouble. Remember, there is a difference between a cop requesting your cooperation and a direct police order. A request should always be in the form of a question and a police order is imperative. If you are unsure, you can simply ask: “Are you asking me to do [the act] or are you telling me to do it?”
Another problem people face is when they are asked waive their legal rights or make any type of statement about the situation. Many assume that once they are back at the police station or are talking to a non-arresting officer who seems like their buddy, they can begin to divulge information that they think might get them out of trouble. If and when an officer asks you to make a statement, you should respond with one simple answer: “Officer, I would like to help, but I need to first speak to my attorney.” Remember, if you are ordered by a police officer, you should what he or she tells you (within reason, of course); but if you are asked to give information, chances are you should ask to speak to your lawyer first. Don’t resist arrest or get into a confrontation with police, just calmly tell them you cannot speak further on the matter at hand until your attorney is present…it’s really that simple.
I have lost count of how clients I have represented over the years who have chosen not to exercise their Miranda Rights and have said something to an officer they thought would be helpful and get them out of trouble or harmless so they would be left alone, and that statement has come back to haunt them later in court. It’s especially bad when they speak to an officer before they talk to me and then don’t tell me about it for fear of looking like a fool. You’re not a fool. You made a mistake that thousands like you make every day. And you were coerced by an officer who pretended to be your buddy to get information out of you.
If you have questions about Miranda Rights or think you are the subject of an investigation, please call Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer Gary Gerson today for a free consultation at 412-219-6875 .