Here’s What You May Not Know About the Law
If you are placed under arrest, everything you do or say affects your ability to mount a successful defense. Knowing this, you’ll need to avoid any mistakes that could put you in jail or prison, and you’ll need to contact a Jefferson County criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.
Particularly due to television and the movies, many people have inaccurate beliefs about the law, and these inaccurate beliefs may cause serious problems if you are placed under arrest and charged with a crime.
Here are ten surprising facts that you may not know about criminal law in Missouri – facts to help you avoid making a bad situation even worse.
Fact #1: You Don’t Have to Open Your Door for the Police
If the police come knocking, there is no law that requires you to answer or open the door. Homeowners and tenants have the right to stay silent and refuse to open a door for the police.
- They have a search warrant for the premises.
- They believe that a serious crime is in progress.
- They believe that someone needs emergency medical attention.
The police may claim to be looking for a missing child. They may claim that you are in serious legal trouble and “need to have a long talk.” But without a warrant, a medical emergency, or a crime in progress, the police have no right to enter your home, and you may ask them to leave.
Fact #2: You Don’t Have to Answer a Police Officer’s Questions
You have the legal right to remain silent whether or not the police inform you of that right. You do not have to answer questions from the police. Even if you’ve been stopped in traffic, served with a warrant, or taken into police custody, your right to remain silent is absolute.
Moreover, you cannot be penalized in any way for refusing to answer a law enforcement officer’s questions. Only judges may order you to answer questions. If the police wish to interrogate you, insist on having your Jefferson County criminal defense lawyer present.
Fact #3: The Police Can Lie to You
The police are allowed to lie to you. They may claim, for example, in an effort to get you to confess, that your DNA was found at a crime scene. The courts have held that deception by the police is allowed, provided that a false confession is not the result of that deception.
Fact #4: Your Rights May Not Be Read to You Immediately
On television shows and in the movies, suspects are read their Miranda rights immediately at the time of an arrest, but there’s no law that requires police officers to read your rights at that time.
You have the right at all times to stay silent and to speak with your lawyer, but the police only have to read your rights after you are in custody and before an interrogation begins. If you are not being immediately interrogated, your rights don’t have to be read to you immediately.
Fact #5: You Don’t Have the Right to a Phone Call
Thanks to television and the movies, most people believe that you have the right to make one telephone call after you have been arrested. That belief is not accurate. You may be allowed to make a call after an arrest, but a phone call is not a right guaranteed to anyone by the law.
Fact #6: You Should Never Plead Guilty at an Arraignment
If you plead guilty at your first appearance before a judge – your “arraignment” – that’s the end of the case. You will face criminal penalties, a conviction will go on your record, and you will have no opportunity to present your side of the case.
If a guilty plea seems like the most expedient way to deal with your case, think again. You can always enter a guilty plea later, but you should plead not guilty at your arraignment, and then discuss your rights and options with your Jefferson County criminal defense lawyer.
Fact #7: You Should Speak About Your Case Only With Your Attorney
Do not discuss your case with relatives or friends. While communications between spouses may be protected legally, if a prosecutor believes that another relative or a friend has information that can be used against you, he or she may call that person to testify.
It’s equally important to avoid posting about your case on social media. The prosecution may monitor your social media accounts, so while your criminal case is pending, it’s better to stay away entirely from social media websites. Speak about your case only with your attorney.
Fact #8: Most Criminal Cases Do Not Go to Trial
Criminal trials are frequently portrayed on television and in the movies. These portrayals give the impression that most criminal cases go to trial. That impression is inaccurate. Very few arrests lead to full-blown criminal trials in front of juries.
Most felony and misdemeanor cases are resolved with plea agreements between the prosecution and the defense. Other cases don’t go to trial because the prosecutor drops charges or the court immediately dismisses the case.
However, if you believe that you are innocent, and if the case against you cannot be dropped or dismissed, you should insist on your right to a trial before a jury of your peers.
Fact #9: You Cannot Presume That You Will Be Acquitted
If your case goes to trial, you can’t presume that the truth will prevail. Many people are optimists who believe that if they are “good people” who did not commit a crime, they’ll be found not guilty. But even with the facts on your side, you still have to fight to avoid being convicted.
Researchers say that as many as five percent of those serving prison sentences are wrongfully convicted. Moreover, some of Missouri’s laws are hard to understand, and you may have committed a crime without realizing it. Don’t underestimate the risks you may be facing.
Fact #10: You Must Not Act as Your Own Attorney
Finally, you must not try to act as your own attorney. The law is too complex and confusing, too much will be at risk, and it’s too easy to make a mistake that could land you in jail or prison.
Grafe & Batchelor is Here for You
The legal team at Grafe & Batchelor has more than three decades of combined criminal defense experience. If you are charged with any felony or misdemeanor, now or in the future, reach out immediately to a Missouri criminal defense attorney at Grafe & Batchelor.
Grafe & Batchelor represents clients in Washington County, St. Francois County, Jefferson County, throughout the St. Louis area, and across the State of Missouri. We will review your case and prepare an aggressive, effective legal defense on your behalf.
Our goal is to bring your case to its best possible conclusion. If you’re charged with a crime, promptly call our law offices at 636-220-5934, and the Grafe & Batchelor team will provide an in-depth evaluation of your case with no cost or obligation.