Seven Words Everyone Facing a Criminal Investigation Should Know


In my last post, I wrote about the two words every person facing a sentencing hearing must say. Words are important . It is not only how we say them but what are the words. Sometimes we need magic words. Time and time again I see folks facing a criminal investigation speak with police and law enforcement . Just today , a case where a person may have avoided getting arrested turns into a criminal conviction because they voluntarily spoke with a police officer.

What are the seven magic words that everyone should know when confronted with criminal investigation ? I want to speak to a lawyer. Why are these magic words ? Prosecutors may now discuss to a jury if you wanted to remain silent. If you ask to speak to a lawyer , evidence that the defendant invoked his or hers right to counsel in impermissible. See St. v.Johnson 743 S.W.2d.154(Tenn.1987). The reason why you are allowed to speak with a lawyer is nobody needs to go it alone in the criminal process. Police have training in getting statements and they use all their tools. we are trained to cooperate with the police from childhood. It is a natural human reaction. However , police calling you up to talk about a drug prescription or knocking on your door on a knock and talk signals a red flag.

My bottom line best advice to all those facing criminal charges from shoplifting to child pornography to murder is those seven magic words. I want to speak to a lawyer.

Would Your Mom Violate Your Miranda Rights ?


New York lawyer Scott Greenfield writes a great blog on criminal issues as well as other interesting topics . I highly recommend his blog Simple Justice.  Greenfield 's topic today was the use of a mother to get  a confession.

Jason Gonzalez was arrested for murder . Mr.Gonzalez refused to give a statement and exercised his constitutional right to remain silent . One key point to remember is your Miranda rights do not attach unless you are placed into custody. In this case , he was clearly in custody since he was taken to jail . The police did not want to give up the hopes of obtaining a confession . So , they enlisted a person Mr. Gonzalez could trust and confide in to tell his story to . The person was his mother . Good old mom wore  video and recording equipment in to visit her son where a full blown confession was made and later made to detectives as well, Attorneys for Mr. Gonzalez are now trying to suppress the confession.

The defense theory was that mom was an agent of the state and used her power of influence to circumvent Mr.Gonzalez 's constitutional protections.

How would this play out in under Tennessee law ?

The main question is whether the behavior of law enforcement officials served to overbear the defendant's will to resist . See State of Tennessee v. Kelly 603 S.W. 2d. 726.

So can a man charged with a crime resist confiding in his mother  . No. Does this apply to jailhouse rats who try to befriend someone in order to get himself a better deal . Maybe..

Why Interrogation Techniques Lead to False Confessions

Interrogation techniques work and sometimes they lead to false confessions in murder and child sex crimes. Why ?

Suspect factors :

1. Studies have shown that vulnerable persons , such as juveniles , mentally ill or mentally retarded are much more vulnerable to police interrogation techniques.

2 .However , The Reid techniques and it's variations also work with normal people.

Three  Interrogation Techniques :

1.Police bait present true and false testimony , thus create a feeling of hopelessness.

2. Contrasts of far worse punishment with minimizes version of offense that is offered. Leniency with the District Attorney and the judge may not be promised but it is implied.

3.Relentless interrogation over long periods of time.

The Evidence Increases on False Confessions

Why would an innocent person confess to a murder or rape that they didn't commit.Ask Eddie Lowery. Mr Lowery was convicted of rape with no physical evidence that he committed the rape. However , one piece of evidence was present , his confession. Mr Lowery was convicted by a jury , but later science set him free. After the conviction DNA evidence proved  another person committed the crime.

Brandon Garrett of the University of Virginia School of Law has recently published a study of 40 other cases where a person gave a false confession that was later cleared of the crime by DNA evidence.One area of Mr.Garrett 's paper focused on police contamination of information . The accused is fed evidence by the police on details of the crime to make the confession have more credibility. Also , more than half of those that falsely confessed were mentally disabled.

What can be done to stop false confessions ?

Jim Trainum, a former policeman who now advises police departments on training officers to avoid false confessions, explained that few of them intend to contaminate an interrogation or convict the innocent.

“You become so fixated on ‘This is the right person, this is the guilty person’ that you tend to ignore everything else,” he said. The problem with false confessions, he said, is “the wrong person is still out there, and he’s able to reoffend.”

Mr. Trainum has become an advocate of videotaping entire interrogations. Requirements for recording confessions vary widely across the country. Ten states require videotaping of at least some interrogations, like those in crimes that carry the death penalty, and seven state supreme courts have required or strongly encouraged recording.

Some police detectives are trained in the Reid method of police interrogation. This technique can lead to false or involuntary confessions.

Here's my suggestion. Do not speak to a police officer without your lawyer present even if you are not charged with a crime yet.