You’ve been pulled over, you’ve been arrested, and then you’ve been indicted or brought before a judge. You’ve been yelled at and coerced by a bunch of strangers in uniforms. I can’t recommend anyone experiencing the inside of jail cell willingly; but worse, you’re now caught in a confusing and expensive system that will easily trample your rights without someone to step in and protect you in the system. Here is what you need to know before you get caught in a criminal case:
If you’ve ever read the Bill of Rights, it is obvious that the rights of the accused were the most pressing thing on the founding father’s minds. Of the ten original amendments, almost half deal exclusively with how the government can treat you as a person if it believes you have committed a crime. Truly, the most important thing to dealing with a criminal case is knowing your rights.
- DON’T SAY ANYTHING TO A COP. It will be used against you.
- Invoke your rights: “I am not making any statements to you. I want to speak to my attorney and have them here.”
- The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits you from being forced to testify against yourself. This means you don’t have to talk or give any statements to anyone if you refuse.
- That doesn’t mean your statements can’t be used against you, just that the government can’t force you to say anything. They will ask constantly for you to waive your rights. They will intimidate and lie. Basically, there are times when the government should know your side. Mostly, it’s when you’re trying to get a better deal.
- NEVER TELL A COP THEY CAN SEARCH YOU. They are asking for a reason.
- Invoke your rights: “I do not consent to any search. If you want to search, show me your warrant.”
- The Fourth Amendment guarantees you the right to be safe in your possessions and property. Put simply: if the government wants to search your things or your home, they have to have a warrant. That’s not to say there aren’t a ton of exceptions and ways to get a warrant, but they still have to go through the hoops of getting a judge to sign off on a search before they can look through your stuff.
- Cars are different. If you drive on a public street, the police can do a plain view search of the inside of your vehicle. But, this does not apply to locked areas or places you cannot reach in the car.
- IF YOU HAVE AN ATTORNEY, THE STATE CANNOT INTERVIEW YOU WITHOUT THE ATTORNEY PRESENT.
- Invoke your rights: “I want to talk to my attorney!”
- The Sixth Amendment guarantees your right to have an attorney. As a result, if you invoke your right to an attorney they should stop all interviews until your attorney can be present. Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t continue to try to get you to talk. As long as you’re silent and refuse to play ball until you get someone in your corner, chances are you’ll end up much better when things finally shake out.
You should never waive your rights without a damn good reason. These protections were added to the constitution to prevent the mad, bad star chamber that had haunted our founder’s forebearers. If you want the justice system to work for you, you need to know how to make your defense better and more prepared. Make the government work for it.