Many people think they have a good idea of the U.S. criminal justice system from television and movies or even word of mouth. However, the depiction of police investigations, trials, and other facets of the legal system in the entertainment industry has resulted in persistent myths. Believing in such myths can ruin your ability to protect yourself and your rights when encountering law enforcement.
The following are some of the most common myths about criminal cases:
- The police must read you your Miranda rights – You may have heard the phrase that starts with “You have the right to remain silent…” before. When an officer starts asking you questions, you may believe that if he/she fails to read you your rights, anything you say cannot be used against you in court. However, these rights only apply if you are in custody or in the middle of an interrogation. If an officer walks up to you and asks you questions, he/she is not obligated to read you your rights since you are not in custody and are free to leave.
- You must speak to the police – You are not required to answer any questions the police ask you and you have the right to decline to answer such questions. While it is against the law to lie to police officers, you are allowed to decline any questions they ask. When law enforcement asks you questions, first ask if you are free to leave. If you are, you could politely leave without providing answers to their questions. If you aren’t free to leave, you should politely ask for your lawyer and remain silent.
- The police need a warrant to search you – The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure by law enforcement. The amendment states that the police need a warrant from a judge to search you, your vehicle, or your home. However, there are several exceptions to this rule. For example, if you are pulled over by police and they notice illegal drugs inside your vehicle, the officer can perform a search without a warrant since the narcotics are in plain or open view. In addition, if you provide consent to a search or if you are arrested, officers do not need a warrant to conduct a search.
- If an officer makes an error, I will win my case – This often applies to traffic citations, where an officer commits a clerical error such as misspelling your name or getting your license plate number wrong. However, most courts allow law enforcement to correct such errors.
- Criminal cases always go to trial – When most people are arrested, they imagine having to go through the emotionally-overwhelming trial process. However, most criminal cases are resolved through plea deals.
The criminal justice process can be quite complex, which is why having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side can help you avoid legal pitfalls while protecting your rights and future.
If you have been arrested for a crime in Phoenix, AZ, contact Maria Jones Law Firm today at (602) 603-4032 and request a free case evaluation today.