- You have the right to remain silent- use it! Under our State and federal constitutions, you have a right not to answer questions from police and other law enforcement officers, but YOU must be the person to assert that right. Officers receive extensive training into how to get you talking yourself into trouble, even if you didn’t do anything; your only protection is to not say anything at all.
- That means don’t talk to anyone! Statements made to friends, family members, counselors and other individuals can be used against you. Almost all phones in jails and police stations are being recorded. Other people in jail will try to cut a deal to testify against you if you confide in them. The only person you can trust to discuss your case with is YOUR lawyer.
- Law enforcement can lie and get away with it! For better or worse, the Supreme Court has ruled that officers can lie to you in order to get you to confess to things. They will say they have evidence (video, DNA, etc.) that doesn’t exist. They will tell you they have witnesses when none exist. They can say that a co-defendant has confessed when they haven’t. All of these things are designed to make you give a statement that will be used against you.
- Never consent to a search of your home, car, or property! In most cases, law enforcement needs to have a warrant or other legal basis to conduct a search. If you agree (consent) to a search, however, they don’t need these things. You giving consent takes away all your protections and privacy. They can even do things like pull up your past phone calls, texts, web sites, and travel history! Do you really want a police officer to know where you have been, who you have talked to, or what you have purchased?
- If a reason for you to be arrested exists, there is nothing YOU can say that will stop law enforcement from doing so. Police officers don’t take statements from suspects to exonerate them. They are taking those statements to build a better case and cut down the suspect’s options. They aren’t interested in your side, only in how they can make sure they will get a conviction. Simply put, you won’t talk your way out of an arrest once they have decided to take you into custody.
- Miranda isn’t a magic wand! While officers should read people their rights upon arrest, it’s not required. Those rights are only relevant if they ask you questions, and are only one part of determining whether a statement is admissible in court. Even if they do read you Miranda rights, it has to be YOU that says you want to exercise those rights; if you waive them, you have given officers free reign over you.
- Ask for (and get) an attorney! If you know the police want to talk with you, get an attorney on your side before they get a chance to start with the questions. If they start asking questions, firmly but politely insist on having an attorney present before you answer.
Don’t Just Know Your Rights – Get an Criminal Law Attorney to Help You Protect Them!
Gary C. Lemel is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Wake Forest University School of Law who has deep background as a criminal defense attorney in Rock Hill. Over the course of his career, he has handled everything from traffic violations to death penalty litigation. His current practice spans multiple counties and focuses on cases involving driving under the influence, drug charges and high-level felonies. He also serves on the board of the South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and as a member of the South Carolina Bar’s Judicial Qualifications Committee and Public Defender Standards Committee.