What to expect if you are accused of a crime: The matters presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. Every case is different, thus the information presented is not a substitute for a qualified and experienced attorney. Only an attorney who understands your individual situation can give you a competent legal opinion.
Know Your Rights:
- If you are suspected of a crime and you are being questioned, you have several important rights:
- The right to know which crimes they suspect you of committing.
- The right to remain silent and not answer any questions.
- If you are in custody, the right to consult with an attorney prior to questioning or to have an attorney present during questioning.
- The right to refuse to consent to a search or seizure.
- The right to refuse to take a lie detector test.
Before you agree to talk to investigators or military officials, consider:
- INVESTIGATORS HAVE THE UPPER HAND. Whether you are innocent or guilty, whatever you say will be used against you. You are on “their turf,” so the questioning official has the upper hand.
- YOUR EMOTIONS ARE YOUR ENEMY. You will be frightened, confused, angry, upset and emotional; therefore it is unlikely that you will be able to explain, rationalize or excuse whatever accusation is made against you in a way that will satisfy the investigator.
- YOUR STATEMENTS WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU. Anything you say that is false will be: 1) an additional charge; and 2) used in court to raise the inference that you lied because you are guilty. Anything you say that is true will be used as evidence that may assist the government’s case or limit your defense at trial.
- INVESTIGATORS ARE NOT THERE TO HELP YOU, do not ask them questions about your case or what you should do: they do not have to be truthful, they do not have to advise you and they do not have your best interests in mind.
- INVESTIGATORS CAN LIE TO YOU (legally) and they can exploit any misconception you may have about the process, punishment, evidence against you, strength of the case or other witnesses.
- INVESTIGATORS ARE HUMAN. They make judgments and have preconceived notions about the case. If you are a suspect, most likely you will be questioned last after some initial investigation. Therefore, they will not believe anything you say if it does not fit their perception of the facts. Remember, if they thought you were innocent they wouldn’t consider you a suspect.
- YOUR COOPERATION, WITHOUT THE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL, IS NOT HELPFUL TO YOU. INVESTIGATORS CANNOT HELP YOU AT TRIAL. The most investigators can do is inform the court that you were ���cooperative or helpful or remorseful.” This may or may not have any effect on your case or the sentence. The government attorney (prosecutor) will always find a way to use your “cooperativeness” against you.
- INVESTIGATORS WILL GIVE YOU FALSE HOPE. Investigator will try to give you a way to mitigate or lessen the severity of the offense by offering possible excuses or explanations hoping that you will adopt them and start talking about the offenses.
- YOU WILL ASSUME THE WORST. You do not know what the investigators know or don’t know, but most of the time you will assume they know more than they actually do. Thus, anything you say will: 1) confirm what they suspected; 2) inform them of facts they did not know; or 3) lead them to new evidence or witnesses.
- RARELY IS IT “TOO LATE TO TALK.��� If cooperation will help your case, then the investigators can wait until you consult with a lawyer and have him present at any questioning. Don’t fall for “a lawyer will tell you to keep silent and then it will be too late.��� It’s rarely “too late” to tell your side of the story, so you might as well have a lawyer help you.
- SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF GOING TO TRIAL. There is a lot of attention and prosecutorial resources devoted to sexual assault allegations in the military; you will not talk your way out of a court-martial if you are suspected of a sexual offense. Military authorities are sensitive to any criticism that they do not take these types of offenses seriously; therefore, you can expect any sexual assault allegation to go to trial.
- SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES- THE CARDS ARE NOT STACKED IN YOUR FAVOR: The law has changed for sexual assault crimes, thus ANYTHING YOU SAY, no matter how innocent it may sound, will be used against you. Something as simple as “we were both drinking” may make it more difficult for you.
Exercise Your Rights The Right Way
- BE DIRECT, FIRM AND UNEQUIVOCAL- this is no time to equivocate or be docile. “I am exercising my right to remain silent, I do not wish to talk to anyone about the charges except my lawyer.”
- “I want a lawyer and I will NEVER speak to you without my lawyer being present.” Remember, investigators do not have to provide you with a priest or pastor, your parents, family members, members of your command or anyone else- there is only one person you can request that is guaranteed to stop the questioning- a lawyer.
- “I will not consent to a search and will not take a lie detector test.”
- There are circumstances, depending on a number of factors, where investigators can or will attempt to reengage after you invoked your rights. They will use time, your fear and anxiety, and human nature to get you to talk. You can never go wrong by speaking to a lawyer first. Demand to speak to an attorney.
Protecting Yourself, Demeanor and Attitude
- BE FIRM BUT POLITE, maintain your dignity and composure.
- Don’t think you can “make friends” with the investigators- you can’t.
- What you say cannot be taken back- remember your rights.
- Keep your cool, don’t lose your temper, you will say things you don’t mean and that will only hurt you.
- Don’t try to “outsmart” the authorities, you can’t- they have time, resources and “the system” on their side.
- Investigators will ask you several preliminary “intake” questions such as name, address, command, etc., with every question stop and think (count to 5 slowly) before you answer, you want to control the rhythm of the questions and answers. Your natural reaction may be to answer quickly, slow yourself down.
- Whatever happens and whatever investigators say, don’t take it personally- they are only doing a job and their primary goal is to have you talk.
- FACEBOOK, FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Investigators will talk to everyone you know and will check you social media accounts for any statements or admissions you might have made. The only person who cannot disclose what you say is your attorney. With certain exceptions, most everyone else can be interviewed and “ordered” to testify. When talking to your lawyer, especially on the phone, make sure no one can overhear your conversation.