And then I said

I am frequently astounded at the breadth and depth of misconceptions about what police can and can’t do. So, I’ve set out a list of just a couple of general rules if you happen to be having a conversation with police officers say, after you’ve maybe done something some people would consider “illegal.”

Myth: Police have to give you your rights if they want to talk to you.
Fact: Miranda warnings (you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and WILL be used against you, you have the right to an attorney) only have to be given in custodial interrogation. Basically, if a cop comes up to you and asks you for your name and where you are going, they don’t necessarily have to give you Miranda.

Myth: If your mom calls and tells the cops she hired you a lawyer, the cops have to stop talking to you.
Fact: They don’t have to stop talking to you until YOU ask for a lawyer. There are magic words everyone should know and say if they are actually being interogated by the police. They are as follows: I WANT A LAWYER. I WANT A LAWYER. I WANT A LAWYER.

Myth: Police officers have the ability to negotiate plea deals a/k/a “hey, if you tell me what happened, I’ll tell the DA you were co-operative and we’ll get you out of here.”
Fact: Hahahaahaaa!! No, really. I don’t mean to laugh, but while police have the authority to stop you, seize you, and turn your life upside down, they don’t have the authority (generally speaking) to make plea deals.

Myth: Cops have to tell you the truth.
Fact: Sadly enough, they don’t have to tell the truth. They are allowed to lie. The reasoning is that the police have to deal with liars and manipulators so they have to fight fire with fire. You can’t expect the police to actually arrest people without lying to them! Sheeesh. So, if a cop tells you your DNA was found at the crime scene, it could be a lie. (although, courts have held this type of lie to go too far in some instances)

That’s my civic lesson for the day.

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Posted in: Not Gulity No Way   |     |   5 Comments

5 Responses

  1. E. McPan - December 6, 2005

    Sadly, I had to sit through a whole semester to learn this. Where were you when I needed you then?!

  2. Legal Quandary - December 6, 2005

    No Doubt!

    If it weren’t already done, I’d be asking you to do my Crim Pro outline.

  3. Angry Pregnant Lawyer - December 6, 2005

    The whole “cops can lie and use trickery” thing always makes me think of that “Homicide” episode where Munch convinces a suspect that a regular copier is actually a sophisticated lie detector test. Apparently, that was based on a true anecdote from the Baltimore PD.

  4. Pettifogger - December 7, 2005

    Most of the stuff in the early episodes of Homicide: Life on the Streets was straight from David Simon’s book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. Change a few names and you got a TV script. Read the book if you’re a Homicide fan.

  5. Public Defense - December 7, 2005

    Great post. Also, don’t forget…

    Myth: If you ask the undercover cop posing as a hooker if she is a cop, she has to tell you that she is a cop.

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