If you face a criminal charge, you should be aware of some of the common mistakes made by criminal defendants—and know how to guard against them.
First, let’s examine the five most common mistakes we see criminal defendants make. Such defendants may not be guilty of a crime, but they may be “guilty” of making avoidable mistakes in their defense.
Mistake #1: Sharing information on social media, emails or texts
Even if only on TV or in the movies, you’ve surely heard the Miranda warning that law officers must provide arrestees, including the advice that “Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.”
Well, anything you convey online (via email or YouTube) or in social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) can also be used against you later in court. Texting conversations are also fair game for investigators and prosecutors.
For instance, if you face a charge of robbery, you should convey nothing online which could connect you to the site of the alleged crime. You should also avoid posting any photos which could suggest you acquired sudden wealth.
Avoid contacting anyone online who has any bearing on your case. It’s not your job to point out to police and prosecutors who they should be interviewing.
Remember: Online posts last forever, and prosecutors often look there first to gain evidence they can use against you later at trial.
Mistake #2: Telling your side of the story to police
Speaking of Miranda warnings, these only must be issued if a person is in custody and law officers want to question them about a crime. That’s usually done at a police station following an arrest. So even before a Miranda warning is issued, you shouldn’t talk. In fact, even after it’s issued you still shouldn’t talk.
If you do talk, all you’re doing is answering questions which law officers pose to trap you and make you look guilty. So don’t talk to police when you’re arrested, don’t give detectives written or oral statements after your arrest, don’t talk to other inmates about your alleged crime if you are placed in jail, and don’t talk about your case on jail phones which may be recorded.
Only talk to your attorney. Then, your attorney will speak up for you while defending your legal rights.
One of those rights is your Fifth Amendment constitutional right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination, or making yourself look guilty.
And don’t worry, by “pleading the Fifth” and not talking, you’re NOT admitting guilt. You’re only applying your legal right.
Mistake #3: Not caring how you look in court
While we’ve all been told that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, keep in mind that “judging” is exactly what a judge is supposed to do. It’s their job—and you should respect that.
If you show up for a hearing looking messy and dirty, a judge may consider you to be disrespectful and treat you that way. But if you show up looking neat and clean, a judge is more likely to treat you like a responsible person.
Mistake #4: Demanding to take an active role in your defense
Your criminal defense lawyer worked for years to learn the law and how it’s applied. He or she is a legal professional. You’re not.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking your persuasive powers in arguments with friends or family about sports or politics make you qualified to steer your defense strategy. Leave that to your defense attorney, who will advise you the best courses of action and then proceed with your consent.
Mistake #5: Failing to hire an attorney in the first place
Even worse than getting in the way of your attorney’s job is having no attorney at all and trying to represent yourself. After your arrest, you should engage an attorney as soon as possible to represent you at each stage of the legal process. If you don’t, police and prosecutors are more likely to take advantage of you.
This is where we can help.
At the Neal Davis Law Firm, our duty is to assert the legal rights of our clients. In performing that duty, we’ve gotten charges reduced or even dismissed for many clients, and we’ve gained acquittals for others who go to trial.
So avoid making these five common criminal defense mistakes, and instead turn to us. Contact us today for a free legal review of your case.