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.

Should I Take a Polygraph?

Polygraph

Lansing Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

A polygraph examination, commonly referred to as a lie detector test, is often used by law enforcement for a variety of reasons. However, the results of a polygraph are not admissible in Michigan courts as evidence because it does not meet the scientific standards for reliability (most studies put polygraph accuracy at about 90%). However, it is extremely important to remember that even though the polygraph results are not admissible, any statements you make during a polygraph can be admitted as an admission.

How Does a Polygraph Work

A polygraph is supposed to detect when a person is lying by recording the suspects’ bodily reactions to questions. Polygraphs are based on the premise that a person’s body will respond in certain ways when they are lying. Four to six sensors are placed on the suspects’ body which measure: pulse, breathing rate, blood pressure, perspiration, and body movements. The readings are recorded by ink on a moving piece of paper by computer.

Pre-test Interview

Typically, a polygraph will begin with a pre-test interview to gain preliminary information to develop possible test questions and build rapport with the suspect. The suspect will be asked to sign a sheet containing Miranda rights indicating that submitting to the polygraph is knowing and voluntary.

Establishing a Baseline for the Polygraph

A baseline is established by the person conducting the polygraph to calibrate the equipment to the body chemistry of the suspect. During this portion the suspect will be asked to deliberately lie to the question being posed by the examiner (polygraphist) to see if he can detect a lie. When the real test begins about four or five questions relevant to the issue at hand are asked. Sometimes control questions will be mixed in with the other questions to measure any changes between the control questions and relevant questions so that a change in response can be read by the examiner. The polygraph examiner looks at changes in the readings to determine if the suspect is lying. The reading is subjective by the polygraphist which is one of the reasons why lie detector tests are not foolproof.

Post-Test Interview

The polygraph concludes with a post-test interview. If the examiner believes the suspect is lying he will often try to elicit a confession. It is very important to make no admissions during or after a polygraph. If a suspect is told they have failed the polygraph, make no more statements or volunteer any statements.

Never Take a Polygraph Without First Consulting with an Attorney

No one should ever take or agree to take a polygraph without first consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The police polygraphists are not there to help you or clear your name. They are trained to get confessions or trick you into confessing despite how friendly they may act. Some polygraph examiners will go beyond the scope of the relevant issues when administering the polygraph. No matter what they tell you, they are not on your side. I never have a client take a polygraph without first arranging a private polygraph to see how the client performs. There are many legitimate reasons why someone will not pass or do well on a polygraph. They are just not reliable enough.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Taking a Polygraph

The advantage of a client passing a private polygraph is that it can be used to persuade a prosecutor to drop charges, particularly if the evidence is weak or it is a “bare bones” case. If a client can pass a private polygraph I am usually confident they can pass one administered by the police. The disadvantage of failing is that if the prosecutor had any doubts at all, they will probably be fervently convinced and press forward with the case. Family and friends may no longer offer their emotional and financial support. However, the results of a private polygraph arranged by your criminal defense attorney should not be shared because it is strictly confidential. The disadvantage of a police polygraph is that any confessions made before, during, or after can be introduced as evidence at trial.

Polygraphs in Sex Crime Cases

If charged with certain sex crimes, you may be entitled to have a polygraph exam be administered. This is especially true in cases where the defendant maintains his innocence and the medical reports do not support the complaining witness’s story. Again, that decision should not be made without consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime or are under investigation, do not make any statements to the police or agree to take a polygraph without first consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call Austin Legal Services, PLC at (517) 614-1983 for a free no obligation consultation today!

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

Miranda Warnings/Rights

0_0_0_0_250_146_csupload_54757556MIRANDA WARNINGS

 

Lansing Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer

Hardly any case is as famous and well known among legal scholars and laymen alike as Miranda v Arizona. It was a landmark case that would forever re-write the criminal procedure textbooks and permanently change police interrogation techniques. The Supreme Court recognized that criminal suspects were entitled to be advised of certain rights if a particular set of criteria existed. Perhaps no other case has caused quite as much confusion among the general public as to when the “rights” kick in and what the consequences are if not properly administered. With all the post-Miranda cases, it would literally take volumes as thick as any encyclopedia set to explain all the nuances of the warnings. What this article is about is providing the public with a general overview as to when the “warnings” are required and when they may not be.

In order for a suspect to be entitled to receive the Miranda Warnings, three prongs of criteria must be met. There must be: 1) Police 2) Custodial 3) Interrogation. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? The amount of confusion, controversy, and legal debates that remain to this day say otherwise. Let’s take them step by step.

1. Police

The person doing the questioning must either be a police officer or a known agent of the police. What about confessions made to undercover police officers or paid informants? That requires a different analysis since they are not “known” to be agents to the suspect at the time of the questioning. Under those situations, the confession has to be “voluntary” and not “coerced.” In other words, as long as the undercover officer didn’t force you, threaten you, or otherwise make you give an incriminating statement that was not made of your own free will, the statement will be allowed in as evidence.

Caveat: Be mindful of confessions made to “bunkies” or cellmates in jail. They are not agents of the police and any confessions or incriminating statements made to them can be used against you!

2. Custodial

For Miranda to kick in, you need to be in police “custody.” But what does that mean exactly? The test that generally seems to be used is: would a reasonable person under the circumstances feel free to leave? A lot of this will depend on where the interrogation is taking place. If it is taking place in the suspect’s home, place of business, public place, etc. the courts usually lean towards concluding that is not police custody (although certain factors could indicate otherwise). In these incidents, it is the suspect and not the police that have the home field advantage. The theory goes that the suspect would feel comfortable either refusing to answer questions or to just tell the police to “get lost.” After all, it’s your home, your castle and you make the rules right? Not necessarily true, but the courts will often see it that way.

On the other hand, if the interrogation is taking place at the police station, then clearly it is the police that have the upper hand. Other factors include: was the suspect told that he could not leave or was he told that he had to answer the questions? If so, the custody argument is now easier to make since the suspect would not feel free to not answer the questions or leave, even if it is in the suspect’s home. A lot of it just depends on the surrounding factors of the situation. This is what the law refers to as the “totality of the circumstances.”

3. Interrogation

The police actually have to be questioning you or otherwise trying to illicit potentially incriminating statements from you. Routine booking questions such as your name, address, etc. are not considered to be incriminating and therefore Miranda does not apply. The courts have held that statements have to be “testimonial” in order for Miranda to be activated.

What does “testimonial” mean? Perhaps it’s easier to discuss what isn’t testimonial: fingerprints, DNA samples, statements given in police lineups, voice exemplars. The suspect must intend to communicate either a fact or belief in order to be testimonial. Usually it only applies to audible statements, but sometimes non-verbal communication can be testimonial, such as nodding the head.

Public Safety Exception

There is an exception to Miranda known as the Public Safety Exception. It is a narrow, case-by-case determinative exception so there is no bright-line rule other than the police do not have to give you Miranda warnings if there is an ongoing threat to the public’s safety.

Voluntary Statements

Miranda does not apply to statements that the suspect gives on his own volition, either before or after the Miranda warnings have been given. Many suspects have operated under the mistaken belief (to their own detriment) that if they give incriminating statements before the officer has had an opportunity to offer the Miranda warnings, the statements will be kicked out. Not true! So don’t offer any such statements to the police. Exercise your right to remain silent.

Miranda Myths

The police have to give me Miranda Warnings whenever I’m arrested—Not true! The police can arrest you and not be required to give you Miranda warnings. They would only have to Mirandize you if they wish to interrogate you or ask you incriminating questions. Otherwise, they don’t have to Mirandize you.

If the police don’t read you your Miranda Warnings, they have to let you go and drop all charges—Not true! Remember, Miranda only applies to statements. The police can still have enough evidence to arrest and prosecute you even if they can’t use your confession against you.

If the police trick me into giving an incriminating answer, it can’t be used against me—Not necessarily. The police cannot force you or “coerce” you into giving confessions or incriminating statements. That doesn’t mean that they can’t lie or otherwise deceive you into giving incriminating statements. “Strategic trickery” is often employed by the police as an interrogation tactic. Police are not required to be Boy Scouts.

If I ask an undercover agent if he is a police officer he has to tell me the truth—Not true! Police could never effectively operate undercover or perform string operations if that were the case. Yes, police can lie.

How to Invoke Your Right to Remain Silent

You have a constitutional right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself. Exercise it! But make sure that you do it in an unequivocal manner so the police cannot misinterpret it. Avoid wishy-washy phrases like, “I’ll think about it,” “Maybe,” “I don’t know yet.” Make sure you state something like the following: “I am invoking my right to remain silent. I will not answer anymore questions until I have talked to a lawyer.”

Remember, you always have the right not to talk to the police. The police can never force you to answer any other their questions.

 

If you gave a statement to the police without the benefit of Miranda warnings, you may have cause to get the statements or any evidence obtained from those statements suppressed. Please call Austin Legal Services, PLC today at (517) 614-1983 to speak to a Michigan criminal defense lawyer for a free, no-obligation consultation about your case.

 

Representing clients on criminal felony and misdemeanor charges throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Barry, Jackson, Gratiot, Kent, Washtenaw, Livingston in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, Haslett, Holt, Williamston, Charlotte, Potterville, Hastings, Ithaca, Bath, St. Johns, Jackson, Grand Rapids, Alma, Ann Arbor, Brighton, Howell.