The legal system is not designed to be nice. It is designed to be hard on crimes and those who commit them. Innocent people can easily get caught up in that mission. Suspects can easily misstep, whether they made mistakes or are innocent, without the help of an attorney who is willing to approach the case as though he is defending his own rights – his own life. Do not make the mistake of taking any police questioning lightly. Here are the five mistake innocent people always make…
- “It’s Not a Big Deal. I Have Nothing to Hide. I’ll Just Go Talk the Police and Work It All Out.”NO, NO, NO. NO.
Never ever think it is not a big deal to be accused or even suspected of a crime by police. Crimes are a BIG DEAL, and they can result in BIG CONSEQUENCES, even if you’re innocent! Call an attorney. Just the suspicion of being involved in a crime can lead to criminal charges – perhaps for something completely unrelated. Not only are there legal implications but being suspected of a crime can impact your job, relationships, and most definitely your bank account. Whether or not you are innocent doesn’t matter. You cannot work things out by talking to police unless what you are trying to work out is a place to sleep for the next several days or possibly years.
- Trying to Be “Sort of Honest.” “I Only Had Two Beers.” NO NO NO NO
Being completely honest won’t get you out of trouble either. Assuming that telling the truth will get you out of trouble is a huge misconception. Many people may have a hard time lying, so they may tell partial truths they think will keep them out of trouble or use words like “probably” and “I don’t think so.” Unfortunately, what they often don’t know is that they still admitted to something against the law and that everything they say WILL be used against them, assumed to be a lie, or misinterpreted by the officer or detective who hears it.
- Thinking You Have to Talk to Police or Blow Into the Breathalyzer. YOU DON’T
You DO NOT have to talk to a police officer. You DO NOT have to answer their questions at a traffic stop other than personal identification information. You DO NOT have to submit to a breath alcohol test. You DO NOT have to go to the police station for an interview. No matter how friendly an officer may seem. If the police have stopped or called you, they are not trying to help you. You may have your license suspended for not blowing into a breathalyzer, but if you blow and fail, you will anyway. While it is illegal to lie to a police officer or any government official, it is not a crime to be silent or say, “I do not wish to answer any questions or submit to any tests.” You also have the right to contact an attorney, who can advise you or go with you should submitting a written statement be warranted. You do not have to answer questions on the spot.
- Feeling Guilty – Saying Too Much or Trying to Apologize to an Accuser – DON’T WHINE
The most common way for people to lose their rights is to not know they have them or to not assert them. You have rights! As kids, most of us are taught to be respectful to adults and authority figures but being respectful does not mean failing to assert them. You are not automatically guilty just because you got pulled over, but you may be if you talk too much. An officer may pull you over for an expired license plate tag, but you also know you going a little too fast a mile back. Don’t blurt out that you did something illegal. Stay calm, and once you provide your identification information and are told why you were pulled over, you can respectfully decline to answer further questions. Some people may even feel guilty for something unrelated or not illegal. Keep your hands in plain sight and stay focused on the matter at hand.
If someone accused you of a crime, and you feel guilty for the way you interacted last, do not call or text them to try to “work things out.” They went to the police on you, so they clearly don’t want to work things out. Everything you say or text to them WILL be used against you even if is an apology, which makes you guilty. Even the record of how many times you tried to contact them will be interpreted as either guilt or harassment. Don’t call the accuser – call an attorney.
- Thinking That They Don’t Need an Attorney – EVEN ATTORNEYS NEED ATTORNEYS!
Did you go to law school? Perhaps you know a paralegal? Is your brother’s girlfriend a clerk at a courthouse? It doesn’t matter. Even attorneys call attorneys when they’re accused of a crime. The legal system is not something you want to try to handle on your own – even with Google. Lack of specific knowledge is one thing, as every case is unique, but the emotions that go along with being accused of a crime will cloud your thoughts from critical components that can best help build your case. Most importantly, not hiring a qualified defense attorney can land you in jail.