Your Right to Remain Silent and Your New York Criminal Defense: When Asking for an Attorney or Lawyer May be the Smartest Thing

I have routinely advised my clients that if they are questioned by the police they should always call me first. What may seem like innocent questioning may actually be the final steps of a law enforcement investigation that will leave them incarcerated for the foreseeable future. As former Manhattan prosecutors trained under Robert Morgenthau, my partner and I at Crotty Saland PC know how an admission by an accused can often be a nail hammered by a defendant into their own coffin.

We routinely file motions for our clients to obtain hearings to challenge the voluntariness of their statement to the police (this is called a Huntley Hearing). Yet, what role, if any, does sleeplessness or intoxication have on ones ability to voluntarily give a statement to the police even if you, the accused, believe you are giving a voluntary statement (did I lose you?!!?)? In other words, does sleeplessness or intoxication negate an otherwise voluntary admission?

Well, a Supreme Court judge sitting in the Criminal Term in Brooklyn (Kings County) New York just dealt with this particular issue as to whether drug use and a lack of sleep could render an otherwise voluntary statement involuntary. In People v. Jeanine Harrington, decided in July 2009, the court found that “[t]he mere fact that a confession is made under such circumstances…does not necessarily render the admission inadmissible. It is a factor to be considered in determining whether the confession was, in fact, the product of a rational intellect and a free will.”

In this particular case the defendant admitted to smoking crack and being up all night. Even during the interview the defendant fell asleep. That being said, the defendant may have been “strung out,” but was consistent in her answers, did not request that questions be repeated and appeared aware at the time of her questioning.

Although the decision rendered by the court was not analyzed extensively from a legal perspective, it did give genuine insight into the fact that intoxication and sleep deprivation may not render your statement involuntary. The lesson any accused person should take from this case is that instead of regretting what you said and trying to legitimately fight the admissibility of your admission after the fact, it is a “wiser” move to consult with an attorney beforehand. In the event you are unable to do so, asking to speak with an attorney will legally prevent the prosecution or police from questioning you further.

While each case requires its own unique analysis as the best way to protect an accused’s rights and liberty, one thing is consistent across all cases. Retaining experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers, such as the former prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC, may mean the difference between maintaining your freedom or compounding the already terrible situation you find yourself in.

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