We have all seen TV shows where a police officer or detective is arresting a suspect and reads the person being arrested their rights: You have the right to remain silent…anything you do say may be used against you…You have the right to an attorney…If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed to represent you…” You have probably seen this scene on TV or in the movies several times. Unfortunately, this can cause a lot of confusion. It is crucial to understand your rights when you are arrested. A dedicated attorney can act as your legal advocate and ensure that law enforcement does not take advantage of your rights.
When Miranda Warnings Must Be Read
The first thing that is important to understand is that the Miranda warnings only kick in at certain points during an investigation. Specifically, the requirements to read what are called Miranda warnings come from a Supreme Court case that requires law enforcement to read a person their rights. This is only true when two things are true:
- The person is in police custody: and,
- They are being questioned by police (versus voluntarily just telling the police information while arrested.)
Therefore, when the police come to speak to a suspect and ask questions, the person is typically not considered to be in custody. Many times, the police will make it clear to the suspect that they are free to leave at any time. They will say things along the lines that the door is not being locked and other information to show the person is not in custody. Law enforcement will also tell the suspect in clear terms that they are not under arrest at the time of the conversation.
Police Can Interrogate without Reading Miranda Warnings
Despite the fact that the Miranda warnings are not read to the suspect, the police are absolutely allowed to use interrogation techniques in their questioning. They are allowed to lie to a suspect. They are allowed to use manipulative techniques that force suspects to feel like they have to pick one of two bad answers. They are also able to pretend they are the person’s friend in asking for information and just trying to get both sides of the story.
This is part of the reason that a police interview, even when they tell you that you are not being arrested, must be taken seriously. Any interview should be audio or video recorded. Often, knowing this, the police are simply using the opportunity to create a video they know will be used at trial.
Videos May Be Used at a Trial
So an additional component that must be considered is what that video is going to look like at a trial. Many lawyers do not even realize that the police are using techniques that make the video terrible to play in front of a jury. For example, the police officer will say things to the suspect such as “we know you are lying” and “we know there’s more to the story.” They will say things about the complainant being truthful. They will tell the suspect that from their “years of experience” they absolutely know there is “more to the story” and they “know something happened.”
These statements are not only untrue, but a major problem when they are played in front of a jury. Many lay people believe that the police have a special ability to determine when a person is lying or telling the truth. The police officer essentially looks like they are an expert at this. This is simply not true. Research shows that law enforcement has a 50-50 chance of getting it right just like any other person whether a person is truthful or not. There are special agents with the FBI who do more accurately assess whether a person is truthful or not. However, the bulk of the law-enforcement investigators that will interview suspects in a Michigan criminal sexual conduct case are not able to tell when a person is lying or not. When these kinds of statements are played in front of a jury, they are absolutely misleading. This is why it is important you have a lawyer present at your interview to stop that kind of nonsense from happening.
Giving Effective Statements
Many lawyers have a hard and fast rule that they do not take any of their clients in to police to make statements. Our office, however, often does. We have found that many of our clients do not get charged with crimes after being interviewed by law enforcement. Further if the person is going to be charged with a crime, we make sure that the statement is one that we would want to have played at a trial. We make sure that the client’s goal – to have their side of the story be heard – actually happens. We also oftentimes help our clients provide information that supports their version of events.
Do Not Hesitate to Reach Out
Even if you have agreed to or participated in a police interview, call our office right away. We can help strategize the best way to handle the case moving forward. The best situation, however, is when you hire our office prior to any police interview or interrogation. We can be contacted at (248) 636-2595.