Three Things Everyone Should Know about Criminal Law

July 19, 2017

By Associate Attorney Bradley Fuller

The Police Do NOT Have to Read You Your Rights When Arresting You

A very common misconception about criminal law is that the police officers or sheriff’s deputies are required to, “read you your rights,” when making an arrest.  This myth is perpetuated by popular movies and television shows. The truth, however, is that law enforcement officials are only required to read you your Miranda rights if they plan to conduct a custodial interrogation. This is when you are asked probing questions about an ongoing investigation in a situation where you are not free to leave. Miranda rights include the right to remain silent, as anything you say can be used against you in court, and the right to an attorney. If you are unable to afford an attorney to defend your case one will be appointed to represent you, usually a public defender. If arrested you should always invoke your right to remain silent and never speak to law enforcement without a qualified attorney present.  The remedy for failure to Mirandize a suspect before questioning is only to exclude the confession at trial, not a dismissal of the charges.

Never Take Legal Advice From Anyone Other Than A Qualified Attorney

Non-lawyers such as friends, family members, and especially “Jailhouse lawyers” should be strictly avoided when it comes to discussing your case.  While many non-licensed civilians, including convicts, may have extensive experience with the criminal justice system, they do not have the many years of education, training, and experience to give sound legal advice.  The information they provide is almost always inaccurate and following their advice can irreparably harm your case.   Additionally, anyone who is not your lawyer can use information they learn about your case act as a “snitch” and cooperate with the state in your prosecution.  Never speak to anyone about your case except your qualified attorney. 

Your Juvenile Record is Not Erased Once You Reach Adulthood

It is a common myth that your juvenile record will be destroyed once you reach adulthood.  This is completely untrue.  Not only will your record of juvenile delinquency be kept, it can and will be used as aggravating evidence against you as an adult by prosecutors and judges. For example, if you are adjudicated delinquent as a minor for a violent crime, judges may consider that incident when setting your bond or sentencing you in a prosecution for a new violent offense as an adult.  The general rule is that judges give substantial weight to incidents within 10 years and less or even no consideration to incidents more than 10 years old.  Certain juvenile offenses can even preclude you from exercising certain rights like owning a fire arm or obtaining a driver’s license.  If you have concerns about your juvenile record it is important that you speak to an experienced attorney.