What to Avoid If You Are Facing a Criminal Charge

Interviewer: What do you think are some of the more common ways that people unintentionally incriminate themselves or hurt their pending case?

Avoid Making Statements to the Police without an Attorney Present

Jay Arnesen: It’s the easiest question to answer.  If the client decided, after he was arrested, to talk, if he gives a statement, he most usually cooks his own goose.  Giving a statement is the worst thing that ever happens in any of my cases, whether it is a misdemeanor DUI, a felony DUI, a grand theft, an aggravated battery, or a regular battery charge.

It doesn’t matter what the charge is, you name it, it doesn’t matter how low it is or high it is of a felony, if,–after your arrest—you voluntarily give a statement, those statements will become yours, and the state will use them to prosecute you.

A Typical Scenario: What to Know to Protect Yourself after an Arrest

I’ll give you an example of what happens.  Again, let’s take the average person, not the career criminal. Let’s take the person who makes a mistake, even if they knowingly made the mistake, but it’s their first time they actually were arrested in their lifetime.  Whatever brought them there, this is what it is, and they have handcuffs on them.

The Police Are Trained to Ask Questions That Elicit Incriminating Answers

Let’s say they actually did what they were arrested for.  Well, the police don’t always have all of the proof necessary to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in trial, but what they really could use is your testimony.  They go ahead and they have to do only one thing after they put handcuffs on you.

They have to read you a Miranda warning.  They have to warn you that you have the right to remain silent, and that if you do not remain silent, any statements that you make can be used against you in a court of law.  They also tell you that you’re entitled to an attorney, and that if you can’t afford one, that they will appoint one for you, free of charge.

Any Statements You Make to the Police Will Be Used as Evidence

If after they give that Miranda warning you go ahead and give a statement, it is going to be admitted into the court proceeding.  Most often, again, take for example, I have the man that’s never been arrested before, and he gets arrested.  He’s got extreme remorse, literally crying to the police not to arrest him, but it’s done.  The police always do the same thing.  They try to get along with you.

It’s not going to be contentious once you’re arrested. The arrest has been made.  It is what it is.  You treat each other with respect.  Well, the police officer you think is going to be your friend and is going to help you out, but he never does.  What he says to you is, “Hey, listen, tell me what happened.  Let’s get this over with.  Come clean with it and I’ll do whatever I can to help you out.”

His so called “doing what he can to help you out” is only telling the prosecutor that you were cooperative after you already told him everything you did wrong.  In other words, you’re not helping yourself, because the state already has the evidence to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of whatever the charge is.

It Is Always Advisable to Request to Speak with Your Attorney PRIOR to Answering Any Police Questions

The best thing that you need to do, if you’re ever arrested, interrogated, questioned by police, is politely say, “I’d like to speak to my attorney before I answer any questions.”  That’s it.

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