What Misconceptions Do People Have When Arrested In Texas?
What Are Some Top Misconceptions Or Misunderstandings People Have About Being Arrested For A Crime, Especially If It’s Their First Brush With The Law?
People have the misconception of what lawyers do for living. The biggest misconception is that if they’re innocent, they are going to be able to convince the police of this. They’re going to want to talk to the police and convince them that this is not a problem, that this has never happened, and that they are not responsible for this crime. Some people believe that they can offer up an explanation or an excuse for their actions and people will believe that, and they can get past it. In our everyday life, if we apologize and we say we were wrong, people will generally say, “Okay, that’s fine.” That even goes for political figures. Say “I’ve done wrong” and “I’m sorry,” and everything goes away.
That’s not how it works in the criminal justice system. They want to know what you did if you did it, and where to go from there as far as punishment. When they deal with us, their misconception is that we are somehow part of this process that’s there to incarcerate them. Some people have to deal with public defenders or court-appointed attorneys, and they believe that these people are part of that process. They want to just get along with the prosecutors and the judges. That’s a giant misconception: that they’re not going to try hard, that they’re going to talk you and ask you to plead guilty.
The majority of people who practice court-appointed work are really there to do best job they can. But it’s a misconception we have a hard time getting away from when educating the general public.
What Have You Learned About People’s Behavior And Their Reaction To Being Arrested And Prosecuted For Crimes?
Everybody has a different reaction. All people are different. You go to some people when they are arrested for a crime and they’re shocked. Some are confused, some of them are mad, and some of them are hurt. Everybody reacts a little bit differently to it. The one thing that I would say that most people have in common is that when they are arrested for a crime, they want to talk about it. At the same time, they don’t want anybody else to talk about it and they don’t want anybody to know what they’re going through, because obviously there’s a stigma in being associated with a crime. Still, they want to talk about it at the same time. So as much as we tell them, “Hey, you have a right to remain silent,” and then, tongue in cheek, “You need to use it,” it’s not going to happen. They are going to say something to somebody.
What Are Miranda Rights And When Do They Actually Come Into Play? What Are Some Of The Misconceptions There?
There are a lot of misconceptions about Miranda Rights. It is the right to remain silent when you’re: 1) in custody, and 2) you’re subject to questioning. Now, there are also some limited exceptions to that. If you’re the one person who is the source of the investigation, then maybe you’re not in custody, but there is still questioning. Someone might say, “Well, he didn’t read me my Miranda Rights.” My question then would be, “Did he ask you any questions at all?” If not, then he just arrested you with a warrant and because there is no questioning going on, they don’t need to talk to you about your right to remain silent because it’s not relevant. Any time you come into contact with the police or confront them when they’re asking you questions, though, be it on the roadside or at home, you have the right to simply say “I don’t wish to speak to you” or keep quiet.
Now, it’s always easier to tell them who you are and things like that, but any time you’re being subjected to questions by the police, you have that right to remain silent. That’s just a fundamental right that we have in our constitution, but it comes into play during that questioning.
I’ve Heard People Say, Especially In DUI Cases, “Well, They Didn’t Read Me My Miranda Rights, So This Case Is Going To Be Thrown Out.” Can You Elaborate On That?
Yes. DWI cases are one of those rare situations, even though they happen all the time, where you have to think about what a DWI is saying. We’re telling the world that this one individual has consumed alcohol or another substance to the point where they lost the normal use of their mental and physical faculties. So the police will ask some general questions only to determine who you are and to try to get a feel for safety. For instance, “Where are you going? What’s your name? Do you have insurance? Do you have a driver’s license?” When they are asking those questions, they are also there to record your answers so that a jury can listen to the way you speak later. Then if you testify in court, they can draw the distinction about whether or not you lost the normal use of your mental and physical faculties.
So no case is ever just thrown out. The defendant can file a motion to suppress the evidence obtained by the police as a result of improper questioning in violation of Miranda, but it doesn’t just throw out the case. They can still proceed with their other evidence and they can even appeal a judge’s decision if it’s prior to trial.
Do You Ever Have Clients Who Feel Guilty Or Know They’re Guilty And Think They Can Just Plead Guilty And Throw Themselves On The Mercy Of The Court? If So, What Do You Tell Them?
Yes, that happens a lot honestly. They believe they’re guilty and they want to get this over with as quickly as possible. Those individuals come to that point for a variety of reasons, but their expectation is, “It will result in a better outcome for me if I just tell them I did it.” In these cases, you’re dealing with law enforcement officers and the prosecutor’s office, and they have a lot to do. They have a lot of cases pending and the population goes up all the time. If you want to go ahead and say you did it, you are not going to be rewarded with a lighter punishment. In fact, it will probably be worse because they don’t have to worry about your case. You already told them that you’re going to work it out with them no matter what. So I always give people the same advice: Why do we need to go down that particular road right now? Let’s find out what they’re saying, let’s find out who said what, let’s get a better grasp of the discovery, and let’s talk to them. Let’s see what they want to do as far as working this case out, and what our options are.
You really have to spend some time going back and forth while the client comes in and says, “I want to get this over as quickly as possible.” Well, okay, great. It’s going to take a number of weeks for the file to be set up at the local prosecutor’s office. If they are in jail, it comes a little bit quicker. Do we need a grand jury indictment? For a felony, we do; for a misdemeanor, we don’t. How long is that going to take? Is it drug-related? If it is, then the lab has to test the samples — and I’m talking about controlled substances here – and then come back. We can’t just run over there and expect them to know everything about the case immediately.
Now, there are some cases where people are caught in a violent act and they remain incarcerated for a period of time, and the prosecutors know 90% of what they’re ever going to know about the case. But let’s still be clear. Let’s take it one step at a time and find out as much as possible, because throwing yourself on the mercy of the court is never the best outcome. You want to find out what it is, you want to talk about it, and you want to see what can be done to mitigate that punishment. Somebody who says “I was in possession of the controlled substance, so I’m automatically guilty” might not be aware that there are things that we can do. Are you going to NA (Narcotics Anonymous)? Are you seeking to relieve that stress by seeking counseling? If it’s something you’re self-medicating on, let’s make an effort at becoming a better citizen and returning to public life immediately, rather than just running over there and telling them, “Throw me in prison,” if that’s what you’re going to do.
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