It goes without saying and it cannot be said enough, one of the biggest mistakes that folks make when they have been implicated in a crime is speaking to the police without the presence of counsel. We all know that great commandment from the famous U.S. Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona, "you have the right to remain silent." But too often, people fall into the trap of trusting law enforcement during interrogations and during conversations concerning criminal matters.
We are taught from a very young age to trust law enforcement, and to be honest and forthright with them at all times. These are great qualities to instill in our young people, but just as important as those characteristics is the understanding of our important constitutional rights - including, maybe most importantly, our right against self-incrimination. This does not mean that an individual implicated in a crime should be discourteous or dishonest to police. Quite the contrary, one should always be polite and courteous when interacting with law enforcement. However, under the circumstances that you are being implicated in a crime or you think you may be implicated in a crime, you should always assert your right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions unless and until your attorney is present.
No matter what a law enforcement officer may tell you, you do not have to answer questions that may incriminate you. You do have the right to have an attorney present at all times while you are being questioned. Ultimately, there is nothing that frustrates and sets back a criminal defense more than an uncounseled statement - written or oral -to law enforcement. In an effort to advise my clients of these rights and to encourage them to assert their right to remain silent and right to counsel, I send each of them a letter which generally reads as follows:
- "This correspondence shall serve to advise you of your 5th Amendment Right to Remain Silent, and my recommendation that you assert that right at all times during the pendency of this action.
- I am hereby advising and recommending that you NOT speak or otherwise contact law enforcement or the victims with regard to this case. Furthermore, do not speak about this case to anyone regardless of who they may purport to be. Any statements that you make, regardless of any law enforcement representations to the contrary, can and would be used against you in this case. This is a very critical time in your case, and your silence is paramount to putting together the strongest defense possible.
- As such, you have the Fifth Amendment Constitutional Right to Remain Silent, and it is imperative that you assert it. If you are approached by law enforcement to discuss this or any other criminal matter, I am advising that you (1) tell the officer($ that you are asserting your right to remain silent, and (2) that you will not speak to them without your attorney present."
If you or someone you know is being implicated in or has otherwise been charged with a crime and is need of an attorney, feel free to contact my office at any time by phone at (419) 562-21 10 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.