How Do People Unintentionally Incriminate Themselves?
One of the worst and most prevalent problems in criminal defense arises when a criminal defendant speaks about the case to anyone who is not an attorney, and then finds that their statements have been discovered by the prosecutor.
The attorney client privilege means the individual has a privilege to talk about their case to an attorney and know that the attorney, with very few exceptions, must hold the conversation private and not divulge to any other individual the information provided by the client.
Often when someone is approached or arrested by law enforcement, they are inclined to try to explain themselves, say that things did not happen in the way the officer though they occurred. This often comes back to haunt a defendant, because a law enforcement officer puts together a police report after an incident. That officer usually relies on memory. Law enforcement officers, by the very nature of their profession, are looking for evidence that gives probable cause to arrest, or sustain an arrest against an individual; they are not looking to free a suspect. Thus, things a suspect says are seen through the lens of incrimination, not exoneration. Things a suspect says that may help their cause are often either not written down, if memorialized, are paraphrased in such a way that words and phrases are lost, so as to damper the impact of the statement as evidence of innocence.
Thus, a cop might only note half the responses given by the defendant. Months later, when questioned about what the defendant said, the officer, who has been involved in numerous arrests since then, generally will refer to, and only remembers, what is put into the arrest report.
To explain what can happen when a client talks to the cops, I like using the analogy found in the movie, “My Cousin Vinny.” In that movie two young men from New York go to the convenient store in a small southern town. One of them shoplifts a bag of potato chips. When they leave the store, their car is stopped by the cops. Both young men are jailed and subsequently questioned by the sheriff.
One of the young men mentions his surprise at all the work the cops are going through just for theft of a bag of chips. The sheriff then informs the young man that he is being arrested for shooting the storekeeper. The young man stares at the sheriff incredulously and yells, “I shot the storekeeper?” Of course, He is saying it in such a way that anyone listening knows that he believes the very idea to be ludicrous. However, the sheriff calmly testifies at trial that when confronted, the young man confessed to shooting the storekeeper. Ultimately, it is shown that the two young men were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. But not every defendant is so fortunate at trial when their statements are used against them.
Anything a person says can be used against them. Words and demeanor can be turned and twisted, which is why the best thing an individual can do for themselves is to be silent to everyone but their attorney.
This would also apply to speaking with people who were also charged with the crime, such as co-defendants, friends and relatives. They do not have a privilege, and if subpoenaed, could be forced to tell a prosecutor everything a defendant told them.
This is especially applicable to others in jail with the accused. People who are in jail are out to get themselves out of their own predicaments. If that means the accused has to go down, then can happen as each is looking out for their own “get out of jail” card with the prosecutor.
You Can Get In A Lot Of Trouble With Social Media
One of the first places Attorney Shafer looks for witnesses is on social media. People spread out their lives on Twitter and Facebook. Social media tends to produce a wealth of information. This is especially true for finding information to discredit a witness set to testify against his client.
However, the same holds true for the defendant. Attorney Shafer tells his clients to avoid posting anything on social media, because everything is accessible to anyone who wants to look at it. This can be a real problem especially for younger people, but it can be a goldmine when dealing with issues of credibility for a State witness who is making a claim against a client.
Clients Should Not Plead Guilty And Throw Themselves On The Mercy Of The Court
Attorney Shafer generally tells his clients to fight the urge to just plead guilty. A client might be overcharged,i.e., charged with a more severe offense than what was committed. For example, if someone is guilty of a certain part of a crime but not guilty of another, then it would be important to gather up the evidence and take a real close look and find out exactly what happened.
Law enforcement often makes people believe they have committed the most heinous of offenses when they have not. The police are actually allowed t lie to suspects and other witnesses in order to gain useful information.
Even if an individual believes they are guilty, they should still be patient and see what evidence exists. It is the duty of the State to present necessary evidence to present each part of each crime alleged against a defendant.
It is always the client’s decision, after looking at and examining the evidence, to decide to enter a plea of no contest or guilty, or to otherwise proceed to trial. However, Attorney Shafer wants his clients to decide how to proceed in their case only with full knowledge of exactly what evidence is presented and not simply based on what they have been told or what a police report states.
There have been numerous instances where the police report state that a suspect committed one crime, but after investigated, it turns out to be either a lesser offense than stated, or no crime at all.
For more information on Things That Might Hurt Your Criminal Case, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Regardless of whether you or your loved one has been arrested in Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce, Vero Beach, Okeechobee, or any area within Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee or Indian River counties, Attorney T. Charles Shafer is here to provide aggressive, hard working representation.
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