Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why do smart people talk to the police?

Everyone with a television knows the Miranda Warnings. Miranda vs. Arizona was decided over forty years ago. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (Supreme Court 1966). Yet, even very smart people give statements to the police. Why is that?
Perhaps the first reason is that the police are good at what they do. They have been doing this for years. They have had training. It is a mistake to believe you're going to be able to control the situation.
The second reason is that you were raised to cooperate with authority figures. People tend to want to cooperate. People mistakenly believe that cooperation will be rewarded .
The third reason is that people believe if they make a statement the police will drop the case. The officers like to encourage communication by saying "Well, if you don't want to give a statement then I guess we will have to consider his or her statement alone." or "Don't you want to tell your side of the story?"
Most of the time the police have already sided with the first person they spoke to. Subsequent statements rarely have any impact on that decision. If someone is hurt or property damaged it is very unlikely the police are going to just let it go. Someone is going to be arrested most of the time.
Remember a confession is not always a confession. Television has helped me through some tough times. That being said it is often misleading when it comes to crime shows. The police don't always look for someone to blurt out, "I did it!". Just admitting you were there proves a good portion of the government's case.
A statement maybe taken out of context. You may not know all the facts. You don't want to create room for confusion or speculation for a jury down the road by making a statement at all.
Did you ever wonder why lie detector tests are used so often? In Illinois criminal proceedings they are not admissible. A polygraph test is unreliability. So why are they offered? The reason is simple if the government can get you to talk they have already won.
Also, if you do make a statement how do you know the police will accurately quote you? I have a t-shirt as well as a sign in my office that reads, "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.". The reason I bought the t-shirt is that it is funny. The reason it is funny is because it is true. I have been doing this for a long time and It is very rare for someone charged with a crime to agree that the police reports reflected accurately what was said and done. Even recorded statements are often tainted by the officers coaching and preparing the defendant prior to turning on the tape.
So, what do you do? Your first step should always be to call The Law Office of Scott Lerner. Your next step should be to inform the officers in an unambiguous manner that you do not wish to talk unless your lawyer is present. Do not initiate any further conversation. If you can't afford a private attorney then ask for the public defender to be appointed.
If the matter goes to court you will have an opportunity to present your side of the story. You will be able to call witnesses and to testify if you so desire. So take a deep breath and be patient.

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