There is an old saying that goes “the funny thing about common sense, is that it is hardly ever common”. I decided to make this a blog topic today, because in the past three weeks, I have shockingly run into this issue several times: giving a confession to the police.
Most people don’t have frequent interaction with the legal system or with police, so when they do, they tend be at a disadvantage. Here is a tip to help level the playing field that might seem obvious: Do not confess to a crime. In some cases it might not be apparent right away that you are giving what amounts to a confession, which is understandable but no less harmful to your defense. Here is one example:
The phone rings and it is the police. They believe that this whole situation that happened the other night (insert battery, sexual assault, vandalism, etc.) there is really just a big misunderstanding, and hey they agree with you that this whole thing is getting blown out of proportion. However, just like you, they have a job to do, can you just give a statement, and we can all move on with our lives?
While this seems like a casual conversation on paper, this is one of the most common ways that people will inadvertently confess, even if it is just partly, to a crime. Police officers have the ability to lie, which is understandable, if they couldn’t it would make undercover work extremely difficult. (Let’s also take a moment to dispel this rumor: No, a cop does NOT have to tell you that he is a cop. That is in no way entrapment.) Most police officers don’t lie maliciously, but they do have a few tricks up their sleeves. For example, they may phrase a request in a way that makes it seem you have to answer or give consent for a search, or tell you that they will go easier on you if you just go ahead and “tell the truth”. Well the truth is that in most cases any statement you make is against your interest, as is consenting to a search and while it is certainly easier for the police officer if you go ahead and “tell the truth”, also known as a confession, it won’t make it easier on you. Police officers have absolutely no say in the harshness of a penalty in a criminal case, which is strictly up to the Judge in your case.
Another situation that our office sees takes place partway through an ongoing case. Often times a situation has developed when someone is in custody or has bond conditions that are frustrating to them. In an effort to make an argument for why they should be allowed out of custody pending their trial, or to explain why certain bond conditions, such as a no contact order, are not necessary, the individual confesses to the crime they are charged with, or in some cases, new criminal charges. As your case progresses, it is an understandable to feel frustrated with the legal process, and that you want to get your side of the story out there. Many people feel like if they are able to tell a judge or prosecutor their side of the story, they will sympathize or understand the situation better, and offer to drop the charges or give a better deal. The important thing to remember is that you will eventually get a chance to tell your side of the story, but doing so too early can be devastating to your case.
If you are contacted by police who are seeking to have you make a statement, contact a Wisconsin Criminal Defense Attorney today.
Contrary to what most people believe, making a statement to police is not typically in your best interest, even if you are innocent. It is always a good idea to speak with an attorney prior to giving any official statement. This ensures that you protecting your best interests and prevents you from making any statement that could be incriminating.