April 17, 2014

Request Lawyer Before Speaking With Detectives on Sex Crime Charges

by The Law Office of Timothy L. Healy

dispair.jpgAs Tacoma sex crimes defense attorneys, we are familiar with the many tactics that law enforcement officers use to try to pry information from suspects.

Sometimes, they will take a friendly approach, extending an offer to "clear all this up," or "offer your side." Other times, they may say they "can't help you" if you won't talk or that "now is the time to help yourself."

In the recent case of New Hampshire v. Pyles, reviewed by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, the officers said they couldn't discuss details of the allegations with the defendant unless he agreed to talk to them about what happened.

But here is what we want to make crystal clear:

  • Officers want to hear your side because they want to use it against you in court.

  • Detectives aren't interested in helping you.

  • You aren't helping yourself at all by speaking to them without an attorney present.

  • If you refuse to speak to detectives alone, it's true you may not immediately learn the details of the accusations against you. However, our justice system requires that you learn those facts soon enough - and you can do so without harming yourself if you can have the foresight to decline questioning and wait until your lawyer is by your side.

In the New Hampshire case, the defendant was convicted on three counts of aggravated felonious assault. He later appealed on the grounds that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress statements that were made in violation of his Miranda rights. However, the Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed his convictions.

According to court records, a detective called the defendant and asked him to come to the station to talk about allegations of sexual abuse that had been made against him. The defendant complied - without a lawyer.

Once at the station, the officer read the defendant his Miranda Rights, though he summarized the last sentence, rather than reading it word-for-word. The defendant asked if he was being placed under arrest, and the detective answered in the affirmative.

The defendant replied he didn't know what was going on, expressed concern about losing his job and said he had no idea why such allegations were being made against him. Wile the detective informed him of the specific charge, no details were given as to who had made the allegation or what exactly was being alleged.

The police offered to discuss the matter with him, to "get his side," but he first would have to sign the waiver agreeing to speak to detectives without a lawyer present. They told him if he wanted to help himself, now was the time to do it.

The defendant again said he had no idea what the detectives were talking about, and the detectives responded they "couldn't really get into it" - unless he would talk.

The defendant ultimately signed the waiver and spoke to detectives.

Later during the trial, the defense requested that those statements be suppressed because there was question as to whether the defendant intelligently, knowingly and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights to discuss the case with police absent legal counsel.

The motion was denied and the defendant was convicted.

Upon appeal, the defendant alleged that it was both coercive and deceptive for police to tell him they couldn't provide him with information about the case unless he agreed to waive his Miranda rights.

But here's the thing: Police are allowed to be deceptive - to a point. What's more, courts have consistently held that silence on the part of law enforcement is not a form of "trickery" deemed sufficient enough to invalidate a defendant's waiver of his Miranda rights.

Further, other courts have held that if an officer reveals details about the allegations without a waiver of Miranda rights, he could be construed to have initiated an interrogation. That's not legal territory officers want to get into.

The bottom line is that anyone facing such serious charges should not rely on threats or incentives offered by police. An experienced defense attorney can in some cases work to negotiate an agreeable plea deal with prosecutors, but that doesn't happen until the later stages of the process. Speaking to police early only hurts your chances of having the charges reduced or dropped.

If you have been arrested for a sex crime in Tacoma, contact Timothy L. Healy at 888-312-3093 - a 24-hour hotline.

Additional Resources:
New Hampshire v. Pyles, April 4, 2014, New Hampshire Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Washington v. Dobbs - Judge Denies Defendant's Right to Confront Accuser, March 19, 2014, Tacoma Sex Crimes Defense Attorney