Almost everyone has a basic understanding of their rights after arrest. Many movies and television shows depict police officers administering Miranda warnings when they take someone into state custody. People are, therefore, generally aware of the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during any questioning that does take place.
People may also believe that they would know to use those rights during an encounter with the police. Still, a surprising number of people fail to make use of their right to remain silent. Those subject to a police investigation and not yet under arrest may believe that they can talk with the police to exonerate themselves. Even those under arrest sometimes believe the myth that cooperation could improve their legal circumstances. Many criminal defendants realize too late that failing to assert the right to remain silent is often a major mistake.
Police often try to trick people into giving up their rights
Too many criminal defendants fall victim to police officers trying to manipulate or lie to them. Officers might promise to testify on someone’s behalf or convince a prosecutor to limit the penalties they face. Such lies are common and do not necessarily undermine the state’s ability to prosecute and convict someone. Plenty of people tricked by the police implicate themselves or confess to crimes they did not commit.
Even if police officers don’t directly lie to someone by misrepresenting the situation or making promises they can’t keep, they may manipulate that person. Asking confusing or leading questions is a common tactic. So is repeating the same inquiries over and over throughout a multiple-hour questioning. People may contradict themselves or end up giving details that make them look guilty.
Even when someone wants to cooperate with the investigation process because they want to help the state hold someone else accountable, what they say to police officers could end up helping build the case against them. Particularly in scenarios where people feel like they have information that could benefit law enforcement authorities, they may need to use their right to an attorney as soon as possible. That way, they can take some of the risk out of communication with the police.
A lawyer’s support can make it possible to comply with some aspects of an investigation while still avoiding mistakes that could increase someone’s risk of a conviction later. Knowing and using one’s basic rights when interacting with law enforcement can make a big difference to those suspected of criminal activity.