By asserting your rights, you lower the risk of self-incrimination
No one should be tricked into providing evidence against themselves, but this happens all the time in Michigan criminal cases because police use tactics to get people to unknowingly confess to crimes.
There are steps you can take to help protect yourself against self-incrimination, such as asserting your Miranda rights. But if you still end up facing charges in Michigan, it's in your interest to talk to a criminal defense attorney from our law firm about your legal rights and options.
What is self-incrimination?
Self-incrimination occurs when a person's actions expose them to the possibility of criminal charges. Also known as "self-crimination" or "self-inculpation," examples of self-incrimination include:
- Revealing damaging evidence against yourself at trial.
- Admitting to circumstances that support charges against you during a traffic stop or arrest.
- Answering police questions without your lawyer being present.
- A witness implicates themselves while testifying in another trial.
What laws establish the right to avoid self-incrimination?
Federal laws that specifically protect your right to not incriminate yourself are, primarily, Amendments 5 and 6 to the U.S. Constitution, and the Miranda warning. The amendments establish your rights, and Miranda requires you to understand them.
- The 5th Amendment says that the government cannot compel a person to answer a question whose answer could be incriminating. You can invoke the 5th Amendment during questioning, even if you have already answered some questions.
- The 6th Amendment establishes the right to legal counsel during questioning. It also says that counsel will be provided to those who cannot afford it. This is important because having a criminal defense lawyer by your side is strong protection against self-incrimination.
What are Miranda rights?
For the most part, police are required to inform you of your Miranda rights (Miranda warning) in a custodial interrogation. Basically, the police have to inform you that:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say may be used against you as evidence in court.
- You have the right to legal counsel (criminal defense attorney).
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you.
The Miranda warning cuts two ways. Miranda educates vulnerable people about their right to not self-incriminate, and it helps police build stronger cases. By explaining your rights before questioning and obtaining a confirmation that you understand them, police seek to avoid accusations of coercion. Evidence collected under pressure or coercion could be disqualified under the "exclusionary rule" and inadmissible in court. A lack of evidence could lead to charges being dropped.
How can I lower the risk of self-incrimination during an arrest or questioning?
To avoid saying something self-incriminating during an arrest or police investigation, state that you are asserting your right to have a lawyer present during questioning. Then, remain silent and consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that it isn't illegal for police officers to lie to you during questioning. For example, investigators may claim to have evidence that connects you to a crime you're accused of, even if they don't have any such evidence. That's why having a lawyer by your side to look out for your best interests can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.
Remember, there are ways to avoid self-incrimination—but you can't keep silent forever. If you are facing criminal charges in Michigan, do not wait until you've said something incriminating to call us. To protect your freedom, call our Flint-based law firm for a free case evaluation. Find out what Manley & Manley can do for you. Contact us today.