Among your rights as an American citizen are the right to counsel and the right to avoid self-incrimination. Many people think that self-incrimination can occur only if one is actually guilty of a crime and admits to it during questioning. However, even the innocent can inadvertently implicate themselves when being interviewed by police. Guilty or innocent, it is imperative that anyone suspected of a crime refuse to talk to police and insist upon an attorney to represent him or her. Why should you refrain from talking to police?
- It cannot help you. Police are looking for a suspect. They want to arrest someone for the crime. You may think you are a pretty smooth talker, or you may think that if you can just explain your innocence, they will let you go. You simply cannot talk your way out of an arrest. If police have enough evidence to arrest you, they will--nothing you can say is going to change that. If they do not have enough evidence to arrest you, your interview can give them the evidence they need--even if you are actually innocent.
- If you are guilty and want to confess, you may destroy your chances for leniency. You may have committed a crime. You may simply want to face the music and get it over with. However, you need to save your confession. Police can do nothing to reduce your charge or lessen your penalties. If you want to confess to a crime you committed, talk to your defense lawyer. He or she can work to arrange a plea agreement with prosecutors, which may result in a lighter sentence or reduced charges. While you may think your early confession to police will encourage leniency for your cooperation, the opposite may be true. A confession to police ruins the chance for a plea bargain and gives prosecutors a nearly airtight case against you.
- If you are innocent, you can talk yourself into a corner. If you suspected of a crime you did not commit, you may think that talking to police will help you clear up any misunderstanding, and you may think that hiring a lawyer only makes you look guilty. Hiring an attorney when you are innocent is just as important as it would be if you were guilty. Telling a little white lie during questioning--even if it is unrelated to the crime--can shatter your credibility. Making a mistake can be construed to look like a lie. Your words can be easily manipulated to make it appear as if you are either lying or confessing. A criminal defense attorney understands how police interviews work and can protect your interests and help you prove your innocence.
- You may not be as innocent as you think you are. Many Oklahoma laws are per se laws, which means there are no mitigating circumstances. These laws have no gray area--they are black and white. Let us take for example a man accused of second degree rape, or statutory rape. He may be questioned by police about sex with a minor under 16. The suspect may admit to sex with the girl but assert that it was consensual and that he did not rape her. Unfortunately for him, he misunderstood the legal definition of rape and just admitted to the crime. Maybe, though, he thought the girl was above the legal age of consent. He tells police, "We had sex, but she told me she was 18." Again, he just admitted to rape, rather than clearing his name. Statutory rape is a per se offense--sex with a person legally unable to consent is rape regardless of any other circumstances the suspect may think exonerate him. Your attorney knows the rules and the laws and can prevent you from incriminating yourself in an attempt to clear things up.