Should I Talk to the Police?

Should I Talk to the Police

Lansing Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer

The police come knocking on your door or perhaps a detective calls and asks you to come down to the station. He just wants to talk. Ask you some questions. Should you go? The answer is “No!” At least, not without consulting with a lawyer first. Here are some of the reasons why you should never talk to the police without first consulting with an attorney.

The police might misunderstand you

Talking to the police is somewhat unnerving for most people. Just because the police use the word “talk” rather than “interrogate” doesn’t make it any less intimidating. The police are trained in the art of interrogation and know how to get information out of people. Most people don’t express themselves with exact precision. If you say something that the officer misunderstands or comes out with a different meaning than what you intended, it will be used against you.

The police may not accurately remember everything you say

Even if the officer takes notes during the interrogation, er… talk, it is quite possible, if not highly probable, that he won’t remember everything your say verbatim. Missing statements leads to lack of context which leads to misunderstandings. Or worse, the police may inaccurately recall what you said. The officer may also make incriminating inferences about your gestures, body language, and attitude that may be inaccurate.

You may lie to the police

Under the pressure and stress of a police interrogation, innocent people have been known to lie, even if it’s inadvertently. It happens quite frequently. Innocent people, in an attempt to vehemently assert their innocence, may deny some seemingly innocent fact to appear as innocent as possible. The police will pounce on any lie you tell, no matter how trivial. It can destroy your credibility at trial and make you look guilty.

Even if you’re innocent and tell the truth, you could still reveal information that could be used against you

For example, let’s say you are being questioned about a murder you are truly innocent of. In the course of denying the killing, you could admit to having a strong dislike for the victim and being in the area of the killing around the time of the murder. Now the police and prosecutor are armed with motive and can place you at the scene of the crime. Things like this easily snowball and you can find yourself being charged with a crime you didn’t commit.

You might confess to a crime you didn’t commit

Police are very skilled at the art of interrogation. Not only do they know how to illicit incriminating information through deceit, threats, and false promises, but they can also use physical techniques such as barraging you with questions for hours on end, depriving you of sleep and bathroom breaks. This has led to many false confessions, especially to those who may not have the mental and physical wherewithal to withstand a hostile interrogation. Next to false identification, false confessions are probably the second biggest reason why innocent people get convicted.

It’s difficult to tell a story the same way twice

Even for a completely innocent and honest person, it is quite difficult to tell a story the exact same way twice. The slightest slip or discrepancy on even the most trivial matter gives fodder for a great cross-examiner to expounded upon at trial to show that you are a liar and inconsistent in your story. This can be very damaging infront of a jury, even if it is completely innocent.

Even if you are guilty and want to confess, you shouldn’t do it to the police

At least not right away. There will be time for confessing and admitting responsibility later if that is what you want to do. More than 90% of cases end up pleading out. It is better to retain a lawyer who can exchange a benefit for your guilty plea through plea negotiations with the prosecutor. You may get a reduction in the charge(s) or a sentencing agreement. If you confess to the police, you get nothing in return. In fact, your chances of getting a good plea deal or any kind of deal at all may be gone because with your confession the prosecution’s case is air tight, or at least a lot stronger than it was.

Nothing good can come from talking to the police

Or at the least, it’s unlikely. Think of it this way, when the police ask to talk to you it’s generally one of two scenarios. First scenario: they believe you committed a crime and they have the goods on you. They don’t need your confession, but it will be icing on the cake. By confessing, incriminating yourself, or being contradictory, all you’ve done is made a strong case for the police even stronger. Second scenario: They believe you committed a crime and they don’t have the goods on you or they have very little on you. It’s a fishing expedition. By talking to the police, all you can do is provide them with ammunition to be used against you as mentioned above in the many reasons given why you shouldn’t talk to the police. All you’ll be doing is helping the police build a case against you and dig a deeper hole for yourself. Even if you are innocent, it is unlikely you are going to change their mind by talking to them.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

Under the Fifth Amendment you have the right to remain silent. Use it! No one ever has to talk to the police. Ever. Even when you get pulled over all you are required by law to do is provide your driver’s license, proof of insurance, vehicle registration, and step out of the car if they ask you to. No talking is required. If the police come knocking on your door, you still don’t have to talk to the police. If the police ever ask you to come to the station and talk, always consult with a lawyer first. If not, it may be too late for a lawyer to undo the damage you’ve done by voluntarily speaking to the police. Remember, Miranda warnings are not required if you voluntarily speak to the police because you are not being detained by the police.

Lansing Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

If the police have asked you to talk or take a polygraph (lie detector test) call Austin Legal Services, PLC at (517) 614-1983 for a free consultation today!

Defending criminal charges throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Gratiot, Livingston, Jackson, Washtenaw, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Shiawassee in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, Charlotte, St. Johns, Ithaca, Jackson, Brighton, Howell, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Corunna, Durand.

Diversion Programs and Delayed Sentences

Diversion Program

Lansing Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

When convicted of a crime, it will remain on your record forever. Usually. The good news is that not everyone has to worry about having their career or future ruined because of one bad choice or an error in judgment. The Michigan legislature has recognized that some people deserve a second chance and shouldn’t have their clean slate tarnished for every future employer to see. There are some ways you can keep a criminal conviction off your record. Some only apply to certain ages or certain offenses. These are known as diversion programs and deferred or delayed sentencing.

Diversion Programs

Diversion programs are a way for defendants to keep a criminal matter off their public record without having to plead guilty or go to trial. They are usually for low level offenses such as misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. Each court has its own criteria for diversion. There will be limits as to the types of offenses that are permitted and there may be residency requirements. The programs are usually reserved for first-time offenders. It is not an expungement, which is removing a conviction from your record after it has been on your record for a period of time. Diversion programs and delayed sentencings are better than expungements because if successful, the file is suppressed (non-public) from the beginning.

The way it works is that the prosecutor will dismiss your case without prejudice (meaning it can be re-filed) upon the contingency that you successfully complete the diversion program. Again, each court is different but it usually involves classes, fines, and community service. The length of the diversion and the types of class you participate in are determined by the type of offense. If you successfully complete diversion, the prosecutor will not re-file the charges and the matter will not appear on your public record. Diversion is frequently used for shoplifting or retail fraud, theft offenses, and sometimes non-violent felonies. An experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney that is familiar with your court should be able to tell you if you are eligible for diversion and can help you get in.

Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA)

The Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA or YTA) is a special sentencing option available to defendants who commit crimes between the ages of 17 and 24. The age requirements are strict. If you commit a crime at 12:01 a.m. on your 24th birthday, you are not eligible. Not every offense is eligible for HYTA either. Youthful Trainee Status cannot be given for any offense that has a potential life sentence (murder, armed robbery), criminal sexual conduct, a major controlled substance offense (drug dealing or possession with intent to deliver), or a traffic offense (OWI, Reckless Driving). Also, if the offense occurs between the ages of 21 and 24 the prosecutor must agree to HYTA or else the judge has no authority to grant it. Upon successful completion of your sentence, you will not have a public record of the offense. You must plead guilty in order to get HYTA, meaning you cannot receive it by pleading no contest or by being found guilty at trial. You can receive it more than once, but be wary that many judges are reluctant to give it multiple times.

7411 for First Offense Use or Possession of Controlled Substance

Under MCL 333.7411, you can receive a deferred conviction for possession of a controlled substance or use of a controlled substance. In other words, it only applies to drug use or drug possession. It cannot be given for any other controlled substance offense such as maintaining a drug house, possession with intent to deliver, etc. There is no age requirement but the caveat is it can only be granted once in your lifetime. Like HYTA, upon successful completion of your sentence (usually probation) you will not have a public record of the offense. Not only does it keep your record clean, but it prevents the mandatory driver’s license sanctions as well. You maintain a clean slate and keep your license. Unlike HYTA, you do not necessarily have to plead guilty to get 7411. You can request it if you have been found guilty at trial. However, be aware that many judges are hesitant to do so, especially if the prosecutor was agreeing not to object to your 7411 petition as an enticement for pleading guilty. It’s a risk you take.

769.4a for Domestic Violence Charges

Under MCL 769.4a, you can receive a deferred sentence for a domestic violence conviction provided that you have no prior assault convictions. Probation is the usual sentence but there could be some jail. Often you will have to take some sort of anger management classes or alcohol or drug treatment if they believe that is a problem. Like HYTA and 7411, you will have no public record of the offense if you successfully complete your sentence. Like 7411, you only get to use it once.

Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP)

For first offense MIP charges, a defendant can be granted a deferred sentence under statute, meaning he will not have a public record upon successful completion of probation which could include community service, alcohol prevention programs, and an alcohol substance abuse assessment. It can only be granted once.

Delayed Sentence

If you are eligible and the prosecutor and judge both agree, the sentence on your conviction may be delayed up to a year. In the meantime, you will be placed on probation under standard bond or probation conditions. After the year is up, you come back to court and your conviction can either be reduced to a lesser charge (misdemeanor or civil infraction) or in some cases completely dismissed, depending on what your agreement was. It is also commonly used in failure to pay child support cases.

Again, this is usually for first time offenders who are given on opportunity to show the court they are not likely to reoffend or commit crimes. You cannot get a delayed sentence for murder, treason, criminal sexual conduct in the first or third degrees, a major controlled substance offense, or armed robbery.

Michigan Sentencing Attorney

If you are charged with a crime, there may be options available to you that could keep your record clean. That means you can honestly tell future employers, colleges, and landlords that you have not been convicted of a crime. Michigan even has a law preventing employers from asking potential employees about misdemeanor convictions that have been diverted or deferred. This is something to discuss with your Michigan criminal defense lawyer if you find yourself being accused of a crime. A bad decision does not have to place an eternal scar on your record. If facing criminal charges, contact Austin Legal Services, PLC today at (517) 614-1983 to speak to a Michigan criminal defense attorney!

 

Defending criminal charges throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Gratiot, Jackson, Shiawassee, Livingston, Kent, Washtenaw, Barry in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, Brighton, Howell, Jackson, St. Johns, Ithaca, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Hastings, Corunna, Durand.

Supreme Court Allows Traffic Stops and Search of Vehicles Based on Uncorroborated Anonymous Call

SCOTUS

Lansing Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Last month in the case of Navarette v California[i], SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) held that the police can pull your car over based on an anonymous tip without any independent corroboration by the police that the driver or occupants of the car are engaging in illegal activity. While it is too early to see the full effects of this decision, I can clearly see this being used as a license to harass a motorist by someone who has a grudge against said motorist.

For example, if you know the make, model, and license plate of someone’s car and know the direction they are traveling, you can call in to every police station and patrol post on the way and accuse them of erratic driving and have them pulled over and detained. Possibly searched. At least, according to the majority opinion in Navarette. This is a frightening decision for those who are concerned about civil liberties.

Facts of the Case

In Navarette, someone called 911 to state that a truck had just run her off the road. The caller gave the color and make, model, and license plate of the truck and the direction of where the truck was traveling on a particular road. Police officers located this vehicle, followed it for five minutes and after witnessing no erratic driving or any other violation of the motor vehicle code, initiated a traffic stop. After approaching the vehicle and detecting an odor of marijuana, the officers searched the truck and located 30 pounds of marijuana. Charged with a serious felony of manufacturing and delivering marijuana, the defendants moved to suppress the evidence citing that the police had no reasonable suspicion that the occupants of the vehicle were doing anything illegal and an anonymous phone call[ii] to the police, absent any independent corroboration, is insufficient and does not give the police reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle. The trial court denied the motion and the Court of Appeals upheld the decision. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case so defendants appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Case Law on Fourth Amendment, Traffic Stops, and Anonymous Tips

The Fourth Amendment allows brief investigative stops (traffic stops) when there is a “particularized objective basis for suspecting the particular person of criminal activity.”[iii] Reasonable suspicion necessary to justify a stop “is dependent upon both content of information possessed by the police and its degree of reliability.”[iv] This standard takes into account the “totality of the circumstances”—the whole picture.[v] Although a mere “hunch” does not create “reasonable suspicion[vi], the level of suspicion that is required is “considerably less than proof of wrongdoing by a preponderance of the evidence and obviously less than is required for probable cause.[vii]

Anonymous Tip Cases

Before Navarette, the two main anonymous tip cases were Alabama v White[viii] and Florida v JL[ix]. In White, the police received a tip that a woman would drive from a particular apartment building to a particular motel in a brown Plymouth station wagon with a broken tail light transporting cocaine. Officers observed just what the caller had indicated, stopped the vehicle, and found cocaine. The Court reasoned in this case that the specific information coupled with the police corroboration, equaled reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The tipster demonstrated a specific familiarity with the acts of the accused which made it reliable. In JL, police received a tip that a black male with a plaid shirt at a bus stop was carrying a gun. The caller provided no further explanation of how he knew this information nor offered any predictions of the accused’s future behavior. The Court reasoned that there was no reasonable suspicion in this case because the tip wasn’t specific enough and too barebones to be reliable.

Applying White and JL to Navarette

The five justice majority (consisting of justices Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, and Breyer) relied on the specificity of the tip (vehicle description and location) and the specific behavior the vehicle allegedly engaged in. Combining that with the assumption (based on the call) that the driver of the truck was intoxicated and the public policy to protect motorists and pedestrians from drunk drivers, held that this gave the officers reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle. The caller would be dissuaded from making false or fake phone calls due to the tracking information the 911 call centers possess. The five-minute observation period was meaningless because 1) the officers already had reasonable suspicion based on the tip and 2) an intoxicated driver noticing police in his rearview mirror would undoubtedly drive more cautious and conform his driving to normal safety standards.

Justice Scalia’s Scathing Dissent

Justice Scalia, almost always siding with the conservative wing of the court, found himself siding with the liberal wing and authored the minority opinion. He notes that an anonymous tip normally needs to be corroborated and while the police had no reason to credit the tip, they had many reasons to doubt it. They didn’t know the tipster’s name or even the location from where she was calling. The fact that the tip was anonymous is suspicious by itself. Wouldn’t a victim of a crime want to identify themselves so they can later testify or further aid the police? “[E]liminating accountability… is ordinarily the very purpose of anonymity.”[x] The unnamed tipster “can lie with impunity.”[xi]

In White, the caller predicted the target’s behavior in such fine detail that it could only have been known by someone familiar with the target’s business as very few people would have such intimate knowledge. In Navarette, the knowledge provided by the caller was generally available. Anyone on the same road that day would have been able to identify the color, make and model of the car, license plate, and direction of travel. The issue, after all, is not how she knew the information she claimed to know, but whether or not what she claimed to know was true.

Nothing from the tip asserted or even suggested the driver was intoxicated. At most, it conveyed that the truck did something atypical. The truck could have been swerving for a number of reasons other than intoxication—distracted by an unruly child, avoiding a pothole, animal, or pedestrian, cell phone distraction… The fact that the police followed the truck for five minutes and did nothing wrong in the time period was enough to dispel any belief (however weak) that the driver was drunk or continuing to engage in any unlawful behavior. Reasonable suspicion requires an ongoing crime. Driving while being a reckless or careless person is not ongoing like drunk driving.

Conclusion

SCOTUS has opened up a whole new wave for police stops. If a caller describes your car, traveling location, and accuses you of erratic driving, the police can stop your car and detain you. I do not think for a moment that this is what the Framers had envisioned when they drafted the Fourth Amendment. It strikes at the very heart of what the Bill of Rights and Fourth Amendment stands for. Like I stated earlier, this just gives license for people to have the police continually harass someone they have ought against. This ruling empowers the police and strips away at the very core freedom the Constitution seeks to protect—the right to be left alone from unwarranted government intrusion. The potential horror that this decision seeks to bring about will soon be unleashed.

 

Austin Legal Services, PLC is a Michigan criminal defense law firm protecting the rights of those accused of a crime. We defend weapons charges, drug crimes, DUI/OWI, sex crimes, assault crimes, and theft crimes throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Gratiot, Jackson, Shiawassee, Livingston, Washtenaw, Kent, Calhoun, in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, Jackson, Brighton, Howell, St. Johns, Ithaca, Battle Creek, Grand Rapids, Charlotte, Ann Arbor.

Call us today at (517) 614-1983 to speak to a Michigan criminal defense attorney for a free consultation.

 

 

[i] 572 US _____ (2014)

[ii] The record was clear that the caller did give her name when calling in, but this information was neither preserved nor given to the officers responding. Subsequently, the caller’s identification was lost and was treated as an “anonymous tip” since the police that pulled the car over never was given the caller’s name nor were they aware that the caller had left her name at the time they initiated the traffic stop.

[iii] US v Cortez, 449 US 411, 417-418 (1981); Terry v Ohio, 392 US 1, 21-22 (1968).

[iv] Alabama v White, 496 US 325, 330 (1990).

[v] Cortez, supra at 417.

[vi] Terry, supra at 27.

[vii] US v Sokolow, 490 US 1, 7 (1989).

[viii] 496 US 325 (1990)

[ix] 529 US 266 (2000)

[x] McIntyre v Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 US 334, 385 (1995).

[xi] JL, supra at 275.