Here at Power and Brown, we want to make sure you know your rights. Specifically, you do not have to answer officer questions. Because officers are constrained by the Constitutions of the United States and the various states, officers often rely on tricks and citizens' lack of knowledge of the law in order to obtain evidence and confessions.
The job of the police is to enforce laws, but oftentimes, especially in major cases, there is a lot of pressure to make an arrest and to help the District Attorney to make a conviction. People also tend to be inflexible in their thinking; if a police officer becomes focused on a particular suspect, she may ignore any evidence to the contrary. These are important things to remember when you become involved in a negative encounter with the police. They are not your friends or there to help you - that is not their goal.
You have the right to not incriminate yourself - in other words, you have the right to not confess, or even to say anything at all. Consider carefully whether you want to confess, if you're in a situation where your'e offered a deal or the police are putting pressure on you for a confession. This is important whether or not you're guilty of the crime of which you're accused. There are lots of statistics out there about false confessions, and yes, it can happen to you. One good source of information is The Innocence Project, which has statistics on false confessions and explains why they happen. Judges and juries, who may decide guilt and innocence, are often unaware of the prevalence of false confessions, which means that someone who has confessed may have a difficult time not receiving a guilty verdict.
Another thing to keep in mind is that officers will often claim they have evidence they don't. The police are allowed to lie to you when they're questioning you. Even if the police say they have damning evidence against you, but offer you a deal if you confess, consider not accepting the deal without first getting advice from an attorney.
Finally, if you ask for a lawyer, the cops must stop asking you questions about the crime in question (keep in mind they can still question you about other crimes). If you are in a situation where you want to stop an interrogation, we strongly recommend asking for a lawyer. You have the right to the advice of an attorney if you are in police custody, and if you are not free to leave, you are considered to be in custody.
Made a confession or have recently been questioned in relation to a crime? Contact us for more information and to discuss legal representation.