As with any legal issue, consult a lawyer to be sure, but here are 10 common myths about being arrested.
A discussion about these legal myths was posted recently on Money Crashers, a website that provides financial advice.
In the event you are arrested, it's crucial that you differentiate between these common myths and what really unfolds in a criminal case.
Do I have to talk to the police?
Generally, you are under no legal obligation to answer questions from police.
Also, if the police take you into custody and interrogate you, you have the right to talk to your attorney before answering any questions.
In some situations, however, the law may require that you give police certain information when asked.
For example, about half the states require that you provide police with identifying information like your name and address when asked to do so. In those cases, police must have a reasonable suspicion relating you to a crime in order to demand this information.
What are some other common myths?
- Police must read you your rights: The rights police read are known as the Miranda warning. The warning stems from the Supreme Court ruling in Miranda v. Arizona in 1966 that said police must inform a criminal defendant of his or her constitutional right to an attorney and against self-incrimination. Miranda is required only when police take a person into custody and want to ask questions.
- You have the right to a phone call: Some states do grant the right to a phone call to someone who has been arrested, but generally, you have no recognized constitutional right to a phone call.
- You can’t be convicted if the police lie to you: The Supreme Court has upheld the government’s right to use deceptions and make false claims in enforcing the law.
- All deception by police is entrapment: Entrapment means police forced or coerced you to commit a crime you would not have otherwise committed — but it’s difficult to prove. High standards required by courts to prove entrapment mean cops can do a lot — like helping you commit a crime by selling you parts to make a bomb — without their actions being considered entrapment.
- You can’t be charged with a crime if nobody presses charges: The determination of whether someone gets charged with a crime is always up to a prosecutor.
- Evidence can’t be used if the police didn’t have a search warrant: The U.S. Constitution’s 4th Amendment grants people the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, but there are exceptions. For police to search you or your property, they must go before a judge, show they have reason to believe you’ve committed a crime and request a search warrant. One exception is a “stop-and-frisk” situation. If the police have a reasonable suspicion you are engaged in some kind of criminal activity, they can stop and frisk you for evidence of weapons or anything illegal.
- You can’t be convicted without fingerprints, DNA or video evidence: Television and movies have spawned this myth but the truth is many cases involve no forensic or scientific evidence and rely only on witness testimony and criminal investigators.
- Your spouse can’t testify against you: Spousal immunity is a protection that prevents prosecutors from forcing the spouse of a married defendant to testify against that defendant in a criminal prosecution. It is not a blanket protection, however. The spouse of a criminal defendant can waive immunity and choose to testify. Or, if a couple divorces before one of the spouses is charged, the ex-spouse is prohibited from claiming spousal immunity and can be forced to testify.
- Cases always go to trial: Most criminal cases in the U.S. are resolved through plea bargain agreements, dismissals and deaths of defendants.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, it's best to discuss your matter with a knowledgeable Alabama criminal defense attorney with real courtroom experience. Contact Barclay Law LLC today for legal help.