Criminal Defense Myths

Myth: The police did not read me my Miranda Rights, so my statements cannot be used against me.

Truth: The police only need to read you your rights if you are (1) in custody and (2) being interrogated. Basically, if the police are questioning you before they have decided to arrest you, any statement you make can be used against you at trial. Likewise, if you make any statements after you are arrested that are not in response to direct interrogation, these are also fair game for use at trial. Many prosecutors have now implemented a policy of questioning suspects after arrest and before they are brought before a Judge for arraignment, where they will be assigned a public defender if they have not retained private counsel. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after arrest can often make a crucial difference. An attorney can contact law enforcement while a suspect is in custody and stop any interrogation.

Myth: The police did not have a search warrant, so anything they found will be excluded in court.

Truth: First, unless you have some “expectation of privacy” regarding the property, generally no warrant will be necessary for it to be used against you in court. For example, to have evidence excluded in court, you would need to show that you owned or were in possession of the item in question, and that the property was taken from a location where you had an expectation of privacy, such as a home where you live or a car which you own. Moreover, there are many exceptions to this rule. For example, if you give the police permission to search your car or if the police have a proper basis for the search, the evidence will come in at trial even if the police did not have a warrant. An aggressive trial attorney will put on a strong defense and request various pre-trial hearings where they will attempt to get this evidence suppressed so it cannot be used at trial, which may have the result of weakening the prosecution’s case to the point where they will be forced to make a favorable plea deal or even dismiss the criminal charges.

Myth: The police or prosecutors cannot prove that I did anything, so all charges will be dismissed.

Truth: Most people assume that because any charges must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt they will not be able to bring a case against them unless they have overwhelming evidence. In a criminal case, you will not know what evidence authorities actually have against you often up until just before trial. While the idea of “plausible deniability” or reasonable doubt sounds good, in truth the prosecution has probably brought many similar cases before and knows what to look for and how to build a case against you. They may be aware of evidence which you do not even know existed, or have a cooperating witness prepared to testify against you (whether truthfully or not). The prosecutor does not necessarily need direct evidence, such as fingerprint, DNA or eyewitnesses, and can often build a circumstantial case to show that you most likely committed this crime. Your fate will then be in the hands of a jury. While the jury will be bound by the law set out by the Judge, oftentimes, whether consciously or not, their decision may be influenced by their own feelings, biases and whims. A court is very reluctant to overturn a jury verdict except in most extraordinary cases, and sadly innocent people do get convicted of crimes they did not commit. A dedicated criminal defense attorney will put the prosecution to its burden, and will always be preparing for trial while zealously negotiating a favorable plea deal.