It is extremely atypical to hear of a case where the accused has waived his right to remain silent, told his story to the police or the prosecutor without legal counsel and later walked away unscathed. Although a generalization, this type of behavior often assists law enforcement in making an arrest, or in worse scenarios, obtaining an indictment or conviction. Certainly, your statement may be valuable and be exculpatory (shows your innocence). However, a simple inconsistancy, inadvertant misrepresentation or otther error that you lock yourself into can cause tremendous trouble down the road. If you are able, talking to your New York criminal defense lawyer is something you should do before taking matters into your own hands.
Generally, you must be read your “rights” where the police or a prosecutor have you in custody and are interrogating you. Seems fairly simple, right? Unfortunately, there are a litany of cases determining what “custody” and “interrogation” means. Unfortunately, for one individual, his chatter with a police officer while he was arrested in a precinct did not render his damming statement illegal.
In People v. Huang, indictment 6119/09, a Kings County (Brooklyn) Supreme Court Judge ruled against a defendant who sought to have his inculpatory statement suppressed as a result of the police officer’s failure to advise him of his “Miranda Warnings.” In Huang, the defendant had been in custody for multiple hours after he was arrested and charged with assaulting his wife with a cleaver. While in the precinct, the defendant asked a police officer about his wife’s condition. The police officer responded by asking if the defendant actually cared how his wife was doing. Thereafter, the defendant admitted to striking his wife multiple times with the cleaver.
Although the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office stated at the defendant’s arraignment (where he saw the judge for the first time) that the statement made by the defendant was a result of questioning, the Court determined otherwise and found that:
“In this case, the conversation was brief, initiated by the defendant, and the officer’s off-the-cuff remark, ‘do you care’ is not one designed to elicit an incriminating response; certainly not the response given by the defendant. In some ways, [the police officer’s] response can be viewed as designed to stop the conversation short. As such, defendant’s statement was spontaneous and not the result of police questioning in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights and will not be suppressed (People v. Lynes, 49 NY2d 286).”
The lesson here is clear. First, you are not required to talk to the police when you arrested. Two, if you are questioned, you have the right to ask for an attorney and the questioning must immediately stop. Three, if you talk or volunteer information without counsel present, you should make sure that what you say will not strengthen the prosecution’s case. Once it is said, if it can be it will be used against you. Although these lessons seem obvious and clear, this individual was not the first, nor will he be the last, to help sink his own ship.
Crotty Saland PC is a criminal defense firm located in lower Manhattan. Prior to starting the criminal defense firm, our founding New York criminal defense attorneys served as prosecutors in the Manhattan (NY County) District Attorney’s Office.