The Fifth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution gives people the right not to say anything that may incriminate themselves. Unfortunately, people charged with crimes often damage their cases by forgetting to exercise their right to remain silent. Here are three ways that criminal defendants talk themselves deeper into trouble.
1. Giving the Police an Alibi
The moment that you begin to think that the police suspect you of some sort of criminal activity, you should stop talking until after you’ve consulted with an attorney. If the police ask where you were at a specific time, it’s safest to assume that you’re a suspect in a crime and simply reply, “I want my attorney before answering anymore questions.”
Here’s why: once you offer an alibi, you are essentially putting yourself in a defensive position. If you have a clear, provable alibi, one that involves a paper trail and irrefutable evidence (like being in the hospital or in a foreign country at the time), you can always present it to the police later after you’ve talked things over with an attorney. You lose nothing by remaining silent.
On the other hand, if you have a weak alibi (like being home in your pajamas watching reruns after work), you are essentially telling the prosecution that you don’t have anything you can use to back up your story. That could cause them to hone in on you even harder.
2. Lying to the Police During an Investigation
A lot of people find it somewhat unfair, but you aren’t allowed to lie to the police during the course of an investigation even though the police are allowed to lie to you.
Here’s why: if you lie, it can be considered a crime.
3. Talking to Someone Else About the Case
If you’ve been charged with a crime or are suspected of a crime, you should never discuss your criminal case with anyone other than your attorney. That includes your romantic partner, friends, relatives, and social acquaintances.
Here’s why: you stand a very good chance of saying something that will incriminate you. Your attorney is bound by a set of ethics and attorney-client privilege to keep whatever you tell him or her in the strictest confidence, but nobody else has that sort of duty. In fact, most of the time, anyone you confess anything to can actually be forced to testify against you.
Additionally, you simply never know who is listening. Defense attorneys often have to worry about statements made on jailhouse phone calls. Even though defendants are notified that they are being recorded, they still seem to think that nobody is really listening to their calls.
There’s also always the possibility that you could actually confess that you’re guilty right in front of a police officer wearing plainclothes. That recently happened to a Colorado DUI defendant who admitted that he was “wasted” when he caused an accident while talking to an acquaintance in a public place within the officer’s hearing.
If you’re the suspect of a criminal investigation or you’ve been charged with a crime, the only person you should be talking to right now is your attorney. If you’d like assistance, contact one of our attorneys for more information.