You must resist every temptation
to talk to the police, prosecutor and victim. Once you have been arrested
these people have taken the position that you must be prosecuted. In
fact, once you have been arrested, with very few exceptions, your case
cannot be dismissed unless you go to court. Further, the participants
in your arrest (the police, prosecutor and victim) will use anything
you say to your disadvantage. In other words, even your most conciliatory
statements or offers to pay damages will be considered admissions of
Worse still is the very real
likelihood that your statements will not even be remembered accurately.
If you explain what happened
to family or friends, with only one exception those people can be summonsed
to court and forced to repeat your statements at your trial. The only
exception is your spouse -- and even your spouse may be summonsed and
forced to take the witness stand against you unless your spouse testifies
in open court that he or she does not wish to testify. Your spouse may
have to get a lawyer to assert the decision not to testify. And, unfair
as it may seem, even if your spouse wants to remain silent there are
situations where your spouse cannot refuse to testify. If the judge
tells your spouse to testify, and he or she refuses to do so, your spouse
can be sent to jail until he or she agrees to follow the judge's order.
In some situations, a police
officer may tell you that if you cooperate without contacting a lawyer,
things will go easier for you. Perhaps the officer will want you to
become an informant. Perhaps the officer will want you to help him get
evidence against other people. The officer may tell you that he can't
make you any promises but he will put in a good word for you with the
prosecutor or judge. The officer may tell you that you have to decide
now, without an attorney, and that the train is leaving the station
and you will miss the train if you do not cooperate now.
You must resist the temptation
to make decisions without a lawyer. Without a lawyer you have absolutely
no guarantee that your honest attempt to cooperate will be considered
an honest attempt to cooperate. Without a lawyer you may have no written
agreement with the police. Even if you do get something in writing,
without a lawyer you have no way of knowing whether the written document
fully protects you. Perhaps most importantly, without a lawyer you have
no way of knowing whether the police have enough admissible evidence
to convict you, you have no way of knowing what your probable sentence
would be, and you have no way of knowing how safe you will be from the
people you will be cooperating against.
In other words, without a lawyer
you are in a very weak negotiating position, you have too little information
to make an informed and intelligent decision, and you may be placing
your self at serious risk.
Therefore, you should not confess,
make statements about the case to the police or prosecutor or anyone
without the assistance of an attorney. Therefore, you should not agree
to become an informant or act as an informant, before discussing your
case with an attorney.
In short, when you are asked
to make statements or decisions without an attorney you should politely
decline to do so. Instead, tell the officer or prosecutor that you would
like to consult with an attorney before making a decision.
If you have already made statements
about your case to the police or prosecutor without the help of a lawyer,
you should consult with a lawyer now in order to minimize your risks.
This information begins to make
you a true and equal partner in your defense. Now,
let's get to work.