While it is difficult to quantify the exact number of people arrested for criminal offenses that make the case for the prosecutor or provide critical evidence, there is no denying this is a common mistake. Many people who are arrested provide incriminating statements or lie, which creates a whole slew of other problems. While people in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania typically understands that they have certain Miranda rights, such as the right against self-incrimination (right to remain silent) and right to counsel, many people are so shaken up during an arrest or interrogation that they attempt to talk their way out of their situation.
If you make incriminating statements once you are “in custody” (i.e. no longer free to leave), the incriminating statements, as well as evidence obtained based on those statements, might be subject to suppression depending on the circumstances. An experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer will carefully examine the facts of your case to determine if your Miranda rights were violated. A violation may including any of the following:
- Failure to give a Miranda warning
- Continuing to question an arrestee after he or she has asserted his right to counsel
- Ignoring a citizen’s indication that he wishes to remain silent
If your criminal defense attorney believes that your Miranda rights have been violated, the attorney can file for a suppression hearing to have any incriminating statements suppressed, so the evidence cannot be used against you. Our criminal defense law firm frequently files motions to suppress incriminating evidence or statements based on Miranda violations. A successful motion might so compromise the prosecutor’s case that the government agrees to dismiss or substantially reduce the charges.
However, the Supreme Court has limited the protections of Miranda in recent years, so it is critical that you clearly articulate your desire to exercise your rights. You should not discuss your case with anyone (other than your defense attorney) and should clearly indicate that you are invoking your right to remain silent and that do not want to answer any questions until you have an attorney present. The police might try to persuade you to sign a waiver or verbally agree to waive these rights. They could even suggest that cooperation will result in less punishment or going home. This is absolutely false; it will never help you to speak to the police. You should invoke your rights and wait for your criminal defense attorney.
A common mistake many people make is to lie to the police. This rarely goes well and eventually ends up creating more problems. It is very difficult to lie effectively during a police interrogation, so the result is usually conflicting statements or statements that are clearly not supported by the evidence. These contradictions or damaging statements will typically be used at trial if you did not invoke your Miranda rights. These statements can be used in a variety of ways. They might provide evidence that you committed the crime, point the police to other damaging evidence, suggest that you are dishonest, or simply make you look less sympathetic to the jury.
An additional problem posed by lying is that the false statement can constitute an independent basis for criminal liability. Depending on the law enforcement agency and surrounding circumstances, it might become easier to prosecute you for lying during an investigation than to convict you of the underlying offense. The criminal case of Barry Bonds provides a good example of this scenario. Bonds ended up facing charges for lying to Congress about whether he used steroids.
The bottom line is that the protections of Miranda are a very powerful tool to protect your freedom, rights, and reputation. It can sometime be difficult to determine the precise moment that Miranda protections commence because you must be “in custody” before the police officers are required to give a Miranda warning. While a formal arrest will often denote the moment a person is “in custody,” the exact moment may occur earlier if you were not free to leave. You may even ask if you are free to leave during an interrogation or after being stopped in your vehicle or on the street. If you are free to leave, then do so. If not, you should immediately remain silent and invoke your right to speak to an attorney.
If you are arrested for drunk driving or any other criminal offense, our Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys can protect your rights, gather evidence to defend you against the charge, and pursue the best outcome. Call Coover & Scheidemann at (717) 761-1274 to learn how we can help.