We’ve previously talked about how police push suspects into confessing to criminal acts, but while it’s always better not to confess in the first time, you can still fight the charges even if you have already admitted guilt. Here are a few ways a criminal defense lawyer may be able to have a confession tossed out of court.
Police Failed to Read Your Miranda Rights
While what you’ve said to police before they put you under arrest can be used against you, not everything you say to the police can be used in court. Once you have been placed under arrest, the law says that police officers are supposed to read you your rights before questioning you. If you were arrested and the police question you after failing to read you your Miranda Rights, your defense attorney may be able to prevent anything you said during those interrogations from being used against you in your criminal case.
Your Fifth Amendment Rights Were Violated
Additionally, if you were read your rights prior to questioning and you invoked your Fifth Amendment right to silence and insisted on speaking to your lawyer, the police are required to leave you alone until your attorney arrives. If they keep trying to interrogate you before your criminal defense attorney has arrived, any statements you make may be inadmissible in court.
Your Confession Was Forced
Coerced or involuntary confessions also must be thrown out of the courts. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be hard to prove when a defendant was coerced into making a confession. Obviously if the police have beaten someone on camera until he confesses, the confession will be considered forced, but real cases are rarely so cut and dry under both state and federal laws.
In reality, law enforcement agents often leave a suspect in an interrogation room for lengthy stretches of time -sometimes over 24 hours, and often without providing the suspect any food and sometimes while actively preventing him or her from sleeping. It’s a lot harder to prove that a confession made while under sleep deprivation and while going hungry is technically forced, but it has been done many times.
Lying to Suspects is Entirely Legal
It is legal for police to lie about the evidence to get a confession and they do it frequently. For example, police can falsely claim they found your DNA or fingerprints at the crime scene to get a confession. These are yet more reasons you should always ask for your lawyer as soon as you have been arrested -he or she can ensure that you are provided food, not left alone in an interrogation room for hours and not subjected to false evidence until you make a coerced confession.
Always Ask to Speak to Your Attorney
If you requested your attorney and are subjected to any of the problems above, then anything you say is absolutely inadmissible. If you did not request to speak with your attorney, and feel you were subtly coaxed into confessing, be sure to write down every detail of your arrest and detainment as best you can as soon as you can so your lawyer may be able to review your circumstances to determine whether your confession might be inadmissible in the courts.
What About Confessions to Other People?
Finally, if a confession wasn’t made to a police officer, but someone else, remember that certain relationships are considered private and protected -so while a confession to your hair stylist could later be used against you, one to your priest could not be. Aside from religious confessions, comments made to a doctor (as long as it relates to your medical conditions), therapist, lawyer or spouse are also protected. If the police have somehow acquired information from one of these sources that should be protected, your attorney may be able to have it withheld during a trial.