The Boston Globe reported on Monday, that an armed intruder has broken into Dick’s Sporting Goods at the Square One Mall in Saugus. Police are currently on the scene.
When the suspect is apprehended, he will be read his rights and offered the services of an attorney if he cannot afford one. This isn’t just for his convenience, it’s his right under the United States Constitution. But why is it important?
Innocent until proven guilty
Let’s face it, a majority of people believe that if someone is charged with a crime they must be guilty. Why else would the police bother to arrest them? The truth is that unfounded arrests happen frequently. Police are not required to follow the rules of evidence when arresting someone. For example, a statement such as “I heard my neighbor say her brother was involved” would never be allowed as evidence in a court of law.
Why? That statement is what is called “Hearsay” and essentially it is plain old gossip. And while a policeman may use that to investigate a crime and may even use similar statement to arrest someone, in order for a charge to “stick” it has to have some factual substance to it: an eye-witness, a video tape of the purported crime, a victim’s statement.
So how can an attorney help me?
The most important thing you can do if you are either being investigated or have been arrested for a crime is to refuse to have any conversation with investigators. This is your right under the Fifth Amendment: the right not to incriminate yourself.
Many officers may try to be friendly–or coercive–in attempting to secure a statement from you. Therefore, you should memorize and recite the following: On the advice of my attorney I cannot speak with you. With that one short statement, the officer is precluded from speaking with you further.
It is almost impossible for an average citizen to know the all the procedures of the criminal justice system. There are many steps along the way, and an arrest can very often end in dismissed charges if an attorney is involved from the beginning. Protect your rights: Refuse to speak with officers and investigators, and retain an attorney as soon as you believe you may be may be a suspect in a crime.