The State of Michigan Court of Appeals recently published a case, People v. Vaughn, which dealt, in part, with the defendant’s motion to suppress statements made to the police because he had not been read his constitutional Miranda warnings. The court determined that, under the circumstances, the defendant was not in custody, so the statements could be used at trial.
Read the case on the State of Michigan website.
This is a problem that often finds its way into the Peter J. Johnson Law Office. Contrary to what all the crime dramas out there would have you believe, the police do not usually put suspects under arrest at the first meeting, or before they ask any questions. Instead, there is often an investigation stage where several suspects may be contacted and questioned without anyone being taken into police custody.
So what do you need to know about talking to the police?
First, you should know that you have a right to refuse to talk to the police, and to ask them to leave. A lot of people are concerned about what happens if they do not immediately cooperate with the police and do whatever is asked of them. Don’t be. The police know that you have a right to ask them to leave or to stop talking to them. The key is to be respectful. Politely say that you would rather not talk to the officer right now and kindly ask him or her to leave. It is your right to do so.
Second, you should know that if you let the police into your home, they are allowed to use anything that is in “plain view” against you at trial. If you choose to speak to the police, suggest that you will come to the station instead. This has the added benefit that anything they say to you or you say to them can be recorded. That way your attorney can review it later if necessary.
Third, you have the right to talk to an attorney before you talk to the police. This applies both before and after an arrest. If the police want to speak to you about a crime and you feel uncomfortable, you may ask them to postpone the interview until you have had an opportunity to talk to an attorney. Many times, lawyers will be able to listen to your story and advise you as to whether it is a good idea to talk to the police officer. Peter J. Johnson frequently facilitates meetings between police and his clients when it is in their best interests.
Fourth, if you are arrested, or otherwise taken into custody prior to questioning, the police must read you your constitutional Miranda rights. Unlike in the crime dramas, this does not have to happen the minute they place you under arrest, but it is supposed to happen before they ask you any questions. If they do not read you your rights, then your attorney can move to suppress any statements you made to the police before they read you your rights. Your remedy if you are not read your rights is that the statements cannot be used at trial.
Finally, it is rarely a good idea to talk to the police if you believe you may be a suspect in a crime. Although there are times when doing so can point them in another direction, often what you say can be used against you later in ways you did not expect at the time. This is why it is always a good idea to contact an attorney if you believe you are a suspect. An attorney can help to facilitate the interview, as described above, or can help to protect your rights if you decide not to talk to the police.
What a defendant says to the police is often one of the most important pieces of evidence for the prosecution at trial. This is why it is important for you to know how to react if the police come to talk to you. Be calm, be polite, but be smart about what you say and when you say it. It can make all the difference.
* Please note: Every case is different, and there may be some aspect of your particular case which may result in an outcome other than is described above. This post is not intended as legal advice and may not apply to your particular case. It is always best to contact our office for a consultation if you have been or believe you may be charged with a crime.