Many United States citizens like to believe that they have nothing to hide from the police unless they have done something wrong. This is especially true for those who have never had a run-in with law enforcement. This belief leads many people to give statements to officers, volunteer information, or allow an officer to search their property without a warrant. This is why it is important to know your rights!
The Constitution of the United States protects us from unreasonable investigation techniques by law enforcement.
Unfortunately, people do not always understand what makes an investigation technique unreasonable. This can result in a violation of your rights without you even recognizing that the violation is happening.
In criminal law your rights are summarized by a list called the Miranda Warnings. Even though your Miranda rights are in effect while dealing with law enforcement, you will not always be informed by the officers of these rights. Knowing your rights is the best way to protect yourself.
The Right to Remain Silent
Under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, no person is required to incriminate themselves. This is often referred to as the right to remain silent. If you are asked a question by law enforcement you are not required to answer. It is not advisable to withhold basic information such as your name, address, or birthday. However, any other information should not be volunteered until after you have spoken with your attorney. This is critical because as the Miranda Warnings state, any information you volunteer can be used against you in a criminal prosecution.
The role of law enforcement in a criminal investigation is to collect evidence to assist the prosecutor in a criminal suit. They are not there to judge the veracity of your story or assist you if you are confused. Even when you believe you have not committed any crime, you may find yourself volunteering information that is harmful to your case.
The Right to an Attorney
If you are a suspect in a criminal investigation, exercising your right to an attorney may mean the difference between a conviction and an acquittal. Attempting to handle a police investigation on your own is not a wise choice. The right to an attorney means you do not have to answer any police questions (aside from basic information discussed above) prior to talking to your attorney. If you agree to talk to the police, you have the right to consult an attorney prior to interrogation.
Another aspect of exercising this right includes not having to answer questions outside the presence of your attorney. Your attorney is literally allowed to answer questions on your behalf and advise you which questions to answer. Interrogations are a critical part of evidence collection for law enforcement. This means that having an attorney advocate for your from the beginning is also critical. The right to an attorney also means that your right extends beyond your pocketbook. As they say, if you cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to have an attorney appointed to you.
At the Kohlmeyer Hagen Law Office we represent criminal defendants in various types of prosecutions, from DUIs to federal white collar crimes. If you are a suspect in a criminal case, do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your case.