Police officers, investigators, and prosecutors place a huge priority on obtaining confessions from defendants in many types of state and federal criminal investigations. Why is this? Because prosecutors are required to prove every element of a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt in front of a jury before they can win conviction. This is very high standard to meet, and the circumstantial evidence of a crime that may have been used to arrest you – for example a tip from an informant or policy stopping you in the vicinity of a crime – may fall well short of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Proving that you had the intent to commit a crime is a particularly difficult problem for prosecutors.
Thus, getting a defendant to simply say that he did the crime is usually by far the easiest way for prosecutors to win conviction, so they will go to great lengths to obtain the confession. It should go without saying that you should never speak to law enforcement without your attorney present, or without requesting an attorney, but, when that does happen and a confession is given, there still may be options for having the confession thrown out of your criminal case.
Work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine whether any of the below situations apply to you, or any other arguments in your defense may exist.
Were You Given Miranda Warnings?
Law enforcement is required to give you Miranda warnings when you are subject to custodial interrogation. If they do not, any statements you make, including confessions, cannot be used against you. Miranda warnings means that the police have to make you aware of your right to remain silent, your right to have an attorney present, and your right to have an attorney appointed to you.
The question will be whether you were in fact subject to custodial interrogation at the time you gave the confession. Being in custody does not mean you have to be handcuffed, in a police car, or in a police station. It can occur in public, and even in your own home. Courts will look at a number of factors in determining whether you were in custody while being questioned, such as whether it appeared that you were free to leave or not.
Did You Invoke Your Constitutional Rights?
Even if you were given Miranda rights, and even if you were not in custody, the police cannot question you if you invoked your right to have the questioning stop until you have a lawyer present. If you asked for a lawyer or otherwise attempted to invoke your constitutional rights, and the police nevertheless persisted and obtained a confession, you may be able to have your confession thrown out.
Was Your Confession Coerced or Involuntary?
It is improper under any circumstances for the police to obtain a confession that is not voluntary, and involuntary confessions cannot be used against a defendant. At an extreme, this means that when police threaten you with violence to obtain a confession, it will not be admissible.
Other situations may involve inadmissible confessions based on their being coerced and/or involuntary – including sleep deprivation and other intimidating tactics – and courts will look at all factors (including the age of the defendant) to determine whether a confessions should be thrown out on the grounds of it being involuntary.
What Exactly Did You Confess To?
Finally, even if the “confession” was obtained legally, it is still important to have your defense attorney look at what exactly the “confession” included. Law enforcement will often try to make a defendant think that he actually confessed to a crime by giving a few details or statements about a situation, but, in actuality, the statement would not be enough to actually convict the defendant of the crime charged.
Get Experienced Defense in Your Oklahoma Criminal Prosecution
Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney Patrick Quillian is a former Oklahoma district attorney who relies on his years of experience in prosecuting cases – including many cases involving challenged confessions by defendants – to provide the best possible defense for all defendants. Contact the office of J. Patrick Quillian, Attorney at Law, today at 405.294.4448 to schedule a free consultation to see what his criminal defense team can do for you.