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Four Things You Need To Keep In Mind In Order To Protect Yourself From Self-Incrimination

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Most people in the U.S. know that the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants them the right to refuse to incriminate themselves. However, defendants often end up throwing away that right without even realizing what they are doing at the time. Learn more about what you need to do to preserve your right against self-incrimination.

1.) Don't wait until after you've been arrested or detained to invoke your rights.

A lot of people accused of crimes seriously damage their own defense by talking to the police for far too long before they're arrested. Legally, the police don't have to give you your Miranda warning—which includes the reminder that you have the right to remain silent—until they have substantially deprived you of your freedom in some way or you've actually been arrested.

In other words, if you're still free to get up and leave or walk away from an interrogation at any point, you can't count on the police to remind you of your rights. In fact, they'll probably happily let you talk as long as you want. The longer you talk, the greater the likelihood that you'll say something that will incriminate yourself.

2.) Don't attempt to explain your side of the story.

The only person you should explain your side of the story to is your defense attorney. Criminal laws are complex and you could find yourself accidentally confessing to something that you didn't even realize was a crime. For example, the laws regarding aiding and abetting a criminal are highly complicated and you could be guilty of being an accessory to a crime without even realizing what you did. Save all your explanations for your defense counsel.

3.) Don't ever discuss the details of your case with friends, relatives, or acquaintances. 

If called on to testify in court, you are putting those friends, relatives, and acquaintances in a very difficult position: no matter how much they may like you or care about you, they may have to answer questions under oath that could incriminate you. They don't enjoy any privileges that allow them to avoid testifying against you and, if they lie, they could face perjury charges. Most people aren't going to be willing to risk a criminal conviction in order to avoid damaging someone else's criminal case.

4,) Don't discuss your case in a public place.

Discussing your case with any except your attorney is a bad idea, but you compound the problem when you do so in a public place. You simply have no idea who might be listening in on your conversation. For example, the defendant in a Colorado trial that involved felony vehicular assault and a DUI actually stood a fairly good chance of an acquittal due to some delayed chemical testing—until the defendant confessed that he was "wasted" at the time of the accident to a clerk at a local marijuana dispensary. A police officer in plain clothes happened to be there at the time on an unrelated case and overheard the entire conversation. His impromptu confession essentially destroyed his case.

For more information on how to best preserve your rights or help with a case, consider contacting a defense attorney in your area.