Radner Legal Services

Practice Areas
Criminal Defense / "10 Commandments"
  1. Assert your right to remain silent. You must actually say "I assert my right to remain silent." This is extremely important, though sometimes difficult. It is human nature to try to talk our way out of trouble. However, know this: NOTHING you say to the police will be admissible to help you, ONLY to hurt you. People think they can't talk their ways into trouble if they didn't do anything wrong, but there are two BIG problems with this thinking: 1) You don't know every possible element of every possible crime so you can't know if you're going to incriminate yourself; that's why you never make a statement to the police without first seeking advice from a lawyer. 2) The police can interpret whatever you say however they want. Countless police officers have "summarized" what a defendant has said to them only to be reviewed by a bewildered defendant who doesn't remember saying any of it! Unfortunately, the police office will testify that he accurately wrote down what the defendant said; the only way it can be contradicted is if the defendant testifies thereby waiving his right to remain silent.
  2. Never lie to the police. This is an important rule to remember. You are never required to agree to a police interview, but if you decide to speak to the police, lying to them can get you charged criminally.
  3. Don't consent to searches. This is also a tricky one. First of all this applies even if you did nothing wrong for a number of reasons. There are two big reasons though that apply to virtually everyone: 1) You simply don't know if you have something that can be viewed as illegal because there are too many criminal statutes to keep track of. The police may tell you they're looking for drugs, and you may consent to a search since you have none! But then they may get embarrassed of finding nothing and charge you with "Disobeying a Lawful Order of police Officer" even if you did everything they say. 2) They may break something! And since you consented to the search, they don't need to pay for it. Don't even try to guess how many cars have been scratched, cell phones have been dropped, and laptops have been smashed by "accident" after consent was given to search.
  4. Ask "Am I free to go?" This is important because often the police will trick you into thinking that you are forced to stay at a particular location. They may say something like, "I need to ask you a few questions" without mentioning that you have no obligation to answer them. However, walking away if they police ordered you to stay is also illegal. And the police will often use tricky language to confuse you. The way to determine whether or not you can leave is by asking, "Am I free to go?" If they refuse to answer the question, ask again. And keep in mind, "Well what do you think?! I don't have a gun to your head now do I?! But do you really want to walk away from a police officer?!"
  5. Never sign any waiver of any rights unless you are advised to do so by YOUR attorney. Unfortunately, the police on occasion will ask you to sign a waiver or a statement. Don't do it unless you had a chance to speak to an attorney of your choosing.
  6. Don't agree to police interviews. This is related to asserting your right to remain silent, but this one goes further. Even if you have not been charged, and the police want to interview you "just to figure out what happened" or to "know your side of the story" don't agree to an interview. It can ONLY get you into trouble. I have yet to see someone talk their way out of charges. Think about this way: If the police have enough to charge you without your statement, they will charge you no matter what you say. And if they don't have enough to charge you without your statement, they won't charge you UNLESS you say the wrong thing and get yourself into trouble.
  7. Don't agree to a police-administered polygraph. Polygraphs are tricky and are often misinterpreted. They are inadmissible in court but occasionally, extremely rarely, the police truly are willing to not pursue charges if a suspect passes a polygraph. But unfortunately, the majority of polygraph results are not conclusive, even if you are telling the truth. However, this will not stop the police from telling you failed the polygraph, and thereby coerce a confession out of you. Think about how strongly you'd consider falsely confessing if the police tell you that you failed a polygraph, but that they can help you avoid jail if you confess to them. You may think you have nothing to lose by confessing since you already "failed" the polygraph. Also, the police will conduct a full-blown interview either before, during, or after administering the polygraph, which you already know not to do.
  8. Trust your lawyer. Your lawyer, if you retain a good one, will know what to do and how to do it. Sometimes, the best approach is to negotiate; sometimes the best approach is to fight. Either approach may apply no matter if you're guilty or innocent. Answer your lawyer's questions truthfully – if he or she asked you, then it is important to know the truth.
  9. Have the same lawyer throughout the entire process. Sometimes people won't want to spend the money on a lawyer at the very beginning of the case with the hopes that things will work out, but if not, they'll hire a lawyer for trial. This is backwards thinking. Trial strategy begins at the very beginning of a case. Your lawyer needs to see the evidence as early as possible, attend all hearings, cross-examine all witnesses, and file all motions to truly be fully prepared. It is true that if you are close to trial and you need a new layer, it is better late than never. But it is certainly best to retain a lawyer with whom you are comfortable in the very beginning of your case.
  10. Retain a lawyer of your choosing. Here's a dirty little secret: Lawyers are in the business of law. Far too often, lawyers feel an obligation to the ones paying their fees. If you received an appointed lawyer, you may have been appointed an excellent lawyer who will fight to protect all of your rights. But more likely than not, your attorney will want to dispose of your case quickly and easily with as little work as possible. He or she is simply not getting paid enough to do any significant work on it. Think about it this way: The government brings charges against you, and the government pays YOUR lawyer. See the potential problem?