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Jan 15, 2024

Protecting Your Rights: Common Mistakes in Criminal Cases

Several Constitutional amendments in the Bill of Rights deal specifically with people who have been.

Written by George Citroner— Reviewed by Dana K. Cassell

Protecting Your Rights: Common Mistakes in Criminal Cases

Several Constitutional amendments in the Bill of Rights deal specifically with people who have been accused or convicted of crimes. For example, the Sixth Amendment is about the right to a fair trial and the elements that make a trial fair, such as an impartial jury, the right to summon witnesses, and the protection against unreasonable delays. These all sound like legal abstractions when you are facing criminal charges, though. If you are being accused of a crime, you want to know what you should do. Between the investigation or arrest and the trial, if there is one, there are many intermediate steps that can lead to a variety of consequences depending on what the defendant does or avoids doing. A Tempe criminal law attorney can help you navigate your criminal case and avoid preventable mistakes. Read on to learn more about common mistakes in criminal cases.

Common Mistakes in Criminal Cases

Always Remember Your Right to Remain Silent Before You Speak

The Fifth Amendment protects defendants in criminal cases, as well as people who have not yet been charged with a crime but are under investigation, from self-incrimination. This means that police officers, prosecutors, and anyone else acting on behalf of the state cannot coerce you into confessing to a crime, regardless of whether you actually broke the law. One of the most notable ways that this Fifth Amendment right manifests itself is in a defendant’s right to remain silent when being questioned by police following an arrest. When law enforcement officers arrest someone, they must read the Miranda warnings, which notify the defendant of rights related to the phase of the criminal process immediately following the arrest.

For example, you have the right to speak privately with a criminal defense attorney before answering questions from police. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you may request legal representation from a public defender. You may have your lawyer present with you during questioning, and you may seek your lawyer’s advice about whether to answer each question individually.

Another well-known application of the Fifth Amendment involves “pleading the Fifth” on the witness stand or during a deposition. The right to plead the Fifth Amendment applies to anyone who might be convicted of a crime or might face criminal charges if they answer the question truthfully. You should plead the Fifth Amendment in any situation where it would be a crime to lie but where telling the truth would also create an appreciable risk of criminal prosecution or conviction.

Meanwhile, “anything you say can and will be used against you” applies in other situations, too.  If you have knowledge of a pending criminal case, whether or not you are the defendant, you should not post about it on social media. Any information related to the case that prosecutors can find (such as publicly visible social media posts) could become evidence in court.

Refusing to Consent to a Search Does Not Mean That You Are Guilty

The Fourth Amendment protects against illegal search and seizure of private property. This means that law enforcement cannot search your house, backpack, computer, or any other item of property unless the court has issued a warrant or unless you consent to the search. The exception is vehicle searches, where police have a lot more flexibility in determining whether there is probable cause for a search at a traffic stop. A lot of people consent to searches because they think that giving consent shows that they have nothing to hide, whereas refusing makes them look guilty. Instead, you should think of your lack of consent to a search as your property exercising its right to remain silent.

Could Your Actions Be Construed as Tampering With Evidence?

Some defendants inadvertently make their legal problems worse by deleting computer files or confiding in family and friends about the case.  If you destroy or throw away items related to the case while it is pending, you could get additional criminal charges for tampering with evidence. If you try to persuade people who could be called as witnesses of your point of view, this could count as witness tampering, which is also illegal.

Criminal Cases are Not Always a Matter of All or Nothing

Remember that the maximum sentence and a spotless record are not the only possible outcomes.  Sometimes, your strategy should focus on excluding a particular piece of evidence. Likewise, sometimes taking a plea deal is the best option; more than 90% of pleas in criminal court are guilty pleas. A misdemeanor on your record is better than a felony, and probation is better than prison. Sometimes, you should choose the best realistic option.

Contact Singular Law Group About Criminal Cases

A criminal law attorney can help you exercise your rights in a criminal case. Contact Singular Law Group PLLC in Tempe, Arizona, to set up a consultation.

 

Sources

https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights/what-does-it-say

A Tempe criminal defense lawyer can help you avoid these common mistakes in criminal cases and exercise your rights, such as the protection against illegal search and seizure, the right to a fair trial, and the right to avoid self-incrimination.

 

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