In criminal law, the term “charged with a crime” means the government has made a formal allegation that a person has committed a criminal act. Getting charged with drug possession is a terrifying experience for most people because you are now in jeopardy of criminal penalties, which can include fines, limited legal rights, and incarceration.
Due to the stakes involved, it’s a high-pressure situation and many people make mistakes. The following four steps will help prevent you from making unnecessary mistakes that could hurt your case.
Step 1: Maintain Your Silence
Most people have heard this bit of advice many times. The Fifth Amendment gives you the right to silence. Say nothing to the police. But, many defendants break this cardinal rule. The reason why so many suspects fail to follow this common-sense rule is the human need to explain why an accusation isn’t true.
Police are specifically trained to trick criminal suspects into giving up information and making damaging admissions. further, they undergo regular training and usually have extensive experience in such situations. No matter how smart or innocent you may be, talking to the police simply won’t help you.
The only questions you are obliged to answer while in police custody are your name, age, and home address. The law does not require you to answer any other questions.
Another reason to maintain your silence is that even innocent mistakes can be used as evidence of obstruction. Although police are allowed to lie to during criminal questioning, you are not.
Keeping your silence also extends to any person other than your attorney. Statements made to a third party may be admitted as evidence against you at trial if it is an “admission against interest.” While it may be tempting to talk about your case to friends, family, or people detained with you in jail, resist this urge. It can only hurt your case.
2. Insist on Seeing a Lawyer
Rather than answering questions, what you should be telling the police is that you want to see a lawyer. Legal counsel is required by law to keep the things that clients tell them confidential. Your lawyer can also help you determine what you should and should not reveal to the government about your case.
Make sure to simply demand to see a lawyer. Do not explain why you think you need to see a lawyer or assert that anyone in your situation needs to see a lawyer. Some jurisdictions have allowed such statements to be used as evidence against criminal defendants. Instead, simply say, “I want a lawyer” without further explanation in response to any question from police.
3. Refuse any Search or Medical Test
Police will likely attempt to get your permission to search your car, house, computer, or bag. Do not agree to any such request, even if it is phrased as a demand. Police are trained to make a request sound like a command that you must obey. Refuse any search.
Similarly, do not give permission for police to subject you to any medical tests. Even if you are not a drug user, many tests can yield false positives. An attorney will know which demands you must comply with and those which you can refuse. Reply to any demand for a medical test with, “I want to see a lawyer.”