Riffing off a meme popular on Twitter last week, one attorney tweeted: "The most successful clients I've met: 1. Want to know if they are being detained 2. Do not consent to this search 3. Would like to speak to an attorney."
That's pretty good advice whether you're innocent or not, and we thought it would be useful to expand on those three factors to demonstrate their importance to your criminal case. Here's what you need to know to be a successful client.
1. Am I Being Detained? (Am I Free to Leave?)
Police can (and will) ask you questions. And, for the most part, you're allowed to refuse to answer those questions. If you do make statements to the police, different rules govern the admissibility of those statements, depending on whether you're "in custody." Suspects have a right to counsel during custodial interrogation (though they must be absolutely clear in asserting that right), and statements made after requesting counsel, especially if counsel is not provided, can get suppressed before trial.
So if you're stopped on the street or otherwise approached by police officers, determine whether you're free to leave. If yes, you can simply walk away, and even if not, you can decline to answer police questions.
2. I Do Not Consent to This Search
To be clear, if police have a search warrant or one of the exceptions to the warrant requirement applies, whatever police find during their search will be probably be admissible as evidence against you. Still, you are not required to consent to a search, whether police stop you walking on the street, pull you over in your car, or want to search your phone. Don't flee or otherwise obstruct the search, but be clear that you do not consent, as that consent can also be exception to the warrant requirement.
3. I Would Like to Speak to Lawyer
You don't need to wait until you're arrested or sitting in an interrogation room to assert your right to counsel, and, actually, the earlier you speak to an attorney, the better. There are certain instances that the police aren't required to provide you with an attorney. If you've been read your Miranda rights or are involved in a police lineup, you can have a lawyer present. And, as we said above, you must be clear in your request for an attorney.
If you want to talk to a criminal defense attorney today, one is only a click or phone call away.