Your right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself is a fundamental constitutional right that you have. Simply put, you have an absolute right to remain silent in a criminal case at any stage of the proceedings. If you are talking with the police, you can sit there and say absolutely nothing. If you are in a trial, no one can force you to testify. It is such a major right that there are scenarios where a statement that you did make to incriminate yourself can be suppressed based on the facts of your case.
Let’s examine this right a little more in detail. First thing to remember is that if an officer does not read you your Miranda warnings, your case will not be automatically thrown out. There are many cases where an officer and/or prosecutor does not need your statement to get a conviction. Some examples of such cases would be shoplifting cases where there is a video, OWI cases, cases where there are several witnesses who identify you as the wrong doer, etc. If you are arrested on this type of case and the officer fails to read you the Miranda warnings, there is a high likelihood that it will not have any impact on your criminal case.
What about statements made before you are read your Miranda Warnings?
This is the area where an attorney makes all the difference to your criminal case. In some situations, if you make a statement to the police it is going to come into evidence even without being warned about your right to remain silent. For example, if the officer is just talking to you on your front porch about an incident and you make an incriminating statement, there is a good chance that that statement will be admissible into evidence. Now compare this to a situation where the officer has you in handcuffs and you are sitting in the back of a police car. If you are not read your Miranda Warnings and you are questioned, most courts will likely let you suppress that statement if you file the proper Motions and make the right argument.
After you have received your Miranda Warnings
If after being read your Miranda Warnings, you decide to talk with the police, then your statements are coming in under most circumstances. Here you have been warned about your right to remain silent, but chose to speak anyways. Typically, this is where most criminal cases are lost for the defense and won for the State. I have had several cases where the evidence is kind of weak, until the client makes a statement indicating that he or she is guilty of the offense.
What should you do if the police want to talk to you?
My general advice to most people is that you will not help your case by speaking to the police. If you are going to do so, it is imperative that you have legal counsel present when answering questions from the police. Remember, they are there to solve a case, they do not have your best interest in mind when they are trying to solve their case.
If you have questions about your criminal case, contact me at 574-387-6529.