Sunday, January 11, 2015

Seeing Two Sides to Every Story

Almost daily, the top story in any newscast or the front page story in the paper has something to do with a crime that has been committed. The story goes on to say if the suspect is in custody or if they are still being pursued by local, state, or federal police. While the word used is "suspect" the word that many people hear is "criminal." A two minute news report suddenly turns into a trial of public opinion, and in many cases the suspect is "convicted" right then and their through the television sets of America.

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Those who remember basic high school civics will recall that the word suspect is not supposed to be the same as criminal. In fact, every suspect is supposed to be presumed innocent until it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the committed the crime that they are accused of. In theory, it is primarily the job of the Oakland County prosecuting attorney to prove their case. In reality, much of that task is transferred over to the defense. 

When a person is arrested, it can be tempting for them to tell police officers and/or a judge their side of the story right away in order to set the record straight. This isn't always the best decision. Police officers are trained to interrogate so that the suspect will reveal information that will help prosecutors obtain a conviction. Miranda rights should always be read to any suspect, whether the crime in question involves shoplifting a small item or they are accused of first degree murder.

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While Miranda right are something police officers just rattle off, the words are important and built into them is good advice for anyone who ever finds himself on the wrong side of the law, whether he is guilty or not. First the suspect is reminded that they have "the right to remain silent" and then immediately the suspect is warned that if they do talk, their words can ultimately be used against them. They are then told that they have the right to an attorney that will defend them in any criminal proceedings that may follow and will stand head to head against the Oakland County Prosecuting Attorney so that the suspect's point of view can be heard. 

There is an advantage to talking to a criminal defense attorney before revealing any knowledge of the crime committed to the police. A suspects own attorney is tasked with being on their side. They can make a case for an appropriate bail amount, advise their client on how to respond to or avoid the media, and how to present their testimony whether they are pleading not guilty or are working out some sort of plea bargain with the Oakland County Prosecuting Attorney.

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The Miranda rights statement also informs a suspect that they will be given a lawyer by the state if they cannot afford to hire one on their own. This public defender should not be a suspects first choice. If the suspect takes the time to look, they will likely be able to find a defense attorney that is willing to work with their client's financial resources in order assure that they are provided the best possible representation.