Being questioned by the police can be a terrifying ordeal that causes innocent individuals to lose their composure. If your conscience is clear and you're certain that you've never committed a crime, imagine this:
You're cordially approached by law enforcement, who just want to ask a few questions. Knowing that you've done nothing wrong, you gladly participate in what seems like a subtle interrogation. You may think, "there's no harm in helping the police catch the bad guy." But next thing you know, you're sitting in a courtroom being accused of a crime you didn't commit. The unforeseen evidence brought forth by the interrogating officer and the jury is now used against you, and all you have is your word against theirs. Sure, it sounds like something out of a movie. But this nightmare scenario is very real, and as a result, countless defendants have had months - and even years - robbed from their life.
Eddie Joe Lloyd - wrongfully convicted of rape and murder
It was 1984 in Detroit, Michigan. The brutal rape and murder of a 16 year old girl left many locals in a state of distress and longing for justice. And one person who wanted to help was Eddie Joe Lloyd, a local who offered the police tips on how to solve an array of murder cases - include the one involving the 16 year old girl. However, the investigating officers seized the opportunity to snare any suspect, and Lloyd - who was being treated for mental illness - happened to be their target. In fact, the police not only took advantage of Lloyd's state of disability, they used shrewd tactics to entice Lloyd into confessing to a crime he didn't commit. The evidence was later used to convict Lloyd and land him a sentence of life in prison without parole.
In 1995, Lloyd's case caught the attention of the justice advocacy group, Innocence Project. They tirelessly worked with Forensic Science Associates to extract DNA evidence from the crime scene. The evidence, later confirmed by Michigan State Crime Lab, proved that Lloyd had no part in the brutal rape and murder of the 16 year old girl. After serving 17 years behind bars, Lloyd was absolved of the crime and released from prison.
In retrospect, Lloyd could have avoided a wrongful conviction and lengthy prison sentence had he not spoken with the police. Whether intended or not, his statements were self-incriminating.
Why you should never speak to the police
Mr. James Duane, a professor at Virginia's Regent University School of Law and former defense attorney, explains why you should never speak to the police in the video below. Law enforcement only has one goal in mind - catching a suspect (and that can mean any suspect). In the context of actual events, they often don't care if you're innocent or guilty. And any statement you give them can later be used to convict you of a crime. That's why the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights guarantees your right to remain silent when being questioned by police.
Anytime an atrocity happens in our communities, we want justice. We want the bad guys to be caught and prosecuted, and rightly so. The Fifth Amendment is in no way an umbrella of immunity for all criminal suspects. But always keep in mind that questions posed by law enforcement are often innocuous and open-ended. It's very easy for the most innocent of suspects to say the wrong thing and self-incriminate. It's also possible for investigating officers to misinterpret your words, mishandle evidence and even make statements in favor of a conviction. In a nutshell, nothing good ever comes from talking to the police without getting legal counsel first. Nothing that you say can prove your innocence or help you in court.
This doesn't just apply to violent crimes, such as the one Lloyd was accused of. It's very common for people under investigation for white-collar offenses to likewise be tricked into incriminating themselves by talking to law enforcement. In fact, the danger may be even greater in a white-collar context because investigations for crimes such as securities fraud often begin as civil investigations - but the civil investigators are more than happy to share what they find with their friends in the Justice Department who are building a criminal case. Such crimes include:
- Embezzlement: Wrongful care of funds that belong to someone else constitutes embezzlement.
- Tax evasion: A company or individual who avoids paying taxes by illegal means can be charged with tax evasion.
- Securities fraud: Companies enticing investors into purchasing stocks on false basis may be charged with securities fraud.
- Bribery: This involves the act of offering or withholding something in exchange for an asset.
- Money laundering: Obtaining and concealing money illegally constitutes money laundering.
- Insider trading: Stock or bond traders who have access to sensitive company information can be charged with insider trading.
- Racketeering: The wrongful or dishonest services offered by a company or individual.
If you are under investigation for a white collar crime, it is important that you remain silent. If you are being questioned by a government agency or law enforcement, an experienced white collar criminal defense lawyer at Brewer & Pritchard P.C. would be glad to answer on your behalf. Never put your own freedom on the line. Contact us today.