Police officers are human. They make mistakes and have bad days just like the rest of us. While this may not come as a surprise, it means that anyone, including you, can be arrested and charged with a criminal offense at anytime. Because of this, every Texan should be familiar with 2 things.
So many times criminal cases are made against individuals not by law enforcement officers but by the person being accused themselves. I cannot count the number of cases that are made without any evidence other than the statements or actions of a defendant. When confronted by law enforcement, almost without fail, people make the mistake of attempting to explain away or outsmart the officer and, almost without fail, the person is unsuccessful. The penitentiary is full of people who have attempted to talk their way out of criminal allegations.
If you find yourself under investigation, accused or arrested for a crime, you must remember these two extremely important things:
1. Your 5th Amendment Right to Remain Silent – If you are confronted by law enforcement you have an absolute right to remain silent. This not only means you have a right to be quiet and not speak but also means you do not have to act. For instance, if you are pulled over and the officer asks you to do field sobriety testing, you have an absolute right to refuse. While there are people who might be able to talk their way out of an arrest, I have never met one. Law enforcement officers are trained to elicit information from you and no matter how believable, logical or clever you believe your story is, odds are, it’s not.
2. Your 6th Amendment Right to Counsel – It’s as simple as “I want to speak to my lawyer.“ Since the discovery and application of DNA testing in criminal cases, hundreds of falsely accused people have been exonerated and set free. Many of these convictions were based on confessions of the accused given after hours of interrogation by police. When asked why they would confess to a crime they did not commit, they all say that confessing was the only way they could see to get the questioning to stop. If they only knew that simple phrase, many of these people would have never been convicted. The law requires officers to cease all questioning with this simple statement. Nothing makes an officer or prosecutor’s job easier than a person who continues talking. If you find yourself being questioned by an officer, either at the station or on the roadside, do not do their job for them, remember that phrase and tell them “I want to speak to my lawyer.”