Top Criminal Law Mistakes

Mistake 1: Allowing a Warrantless Search and Seizure

DON'T. Another big mistake is when people allow the police to search their home, work or car without a warrant. The U.S. Constitution does not allow this. Insist that the police have a proper warrant to search your home or belongings. Don't give the cops permission to search your belongings without a proper warrant. And don't let the police search your son's or daughter's or spouse's belongings without a proper warrant, even if it is your home.

Mistake 2: Talking on the Jail Phone or With Fellow Inmates or Jail Staff About Your Case.

EVERY JAIL PHONE CALL IS RECORDED AND CAN BE USED AGAINST YOU. Every jail phone call is recorded; every time. The police investigators and prosecutors routinely obtain and listen to arrestees' jail phone calls. There is no confidentiality attached to telephone calls from inside the jail unless you are speaking with your lawyer. There are huge data centers that store digital jail telephone call recordings indefinitely. Expect that if you say anything about your case it will be later be played in court.

Mistake 3: What I Tell Inmates and Jail Staff Does Not Hurt Me.

"Jail house confessions" are commonly admitted into evidence against the accused. Expect the jail staff to speak with the police and prosecutors. Fellow inmates are watching for an opportunity to lighten their sentences by cooperating with the prosecution. If you tell fellow inmates anything which makes you look guilty they trade that information to reduce their own sentences. Inmates frequently misconstruing what you do and say to make you look guilty. When you are in jail, you have virtually no rights of privacy. Don't make the prosecutor's job easier.

Mistake 4: No One Can Look at My Legal Papers in Jail.

Do not store important legal papers in your cell or pod and expect that no one will go through them. Letters from the attorney, discovery materials from the prosecution, and other important documents are subject to inspection by jail staff and fellow inmates. It is wrong but it is happening. Occasionally, a fellow inmate will get the discovery documents outlining the prosecution's case and use this knowledge to inform the prosecutor that you have confessed to him the crime. Your lawyer has an office with a filing cabinet to keep your legal papers safe.

Mistake 5: Taking a Police Polygraph

While polygraphs (lie detectors) are not generally admissible in court, they play an important role in criminal cases and sometimes are used to "clear" people of charges; according to the police officer. Polygraphs are used most often by the police as an interrogation tool and to confirm what they already believe to be true. Worse, the police can get a confession or inconsistent/incriminating statements from the answers to the polygraph questions. They are often used as part of a "good cop/bad cop" routine, where a suspect has denied involvement in a crime, and the police offer the "opportunity" to take a polygraph to clear up the accusations. What the police are really expecting is that the suspect will "fail." When the suspect "fails," the police use the "fail" to put psychological pressure on the suspect - pushing hard for a confession since "the test doesn't lie." DON'T TAKE A POLICE POLYGRAPH - SPEAK WITH AN EXPERIENCED LAWYER FIRST. If after discussions and investigation, the considered opinion is that a polygraph may bring a dismissal of the charges, I first arrange for my clients to take a polygraph with a certified polygraphist to see if my client passes. Then, I take the results to the prosecutor or police detective and a subsequent polygraph usually is unnecessary.

Mistake 6: Expungment Means No One Will Know I Was Arrested.

Expungment of a "criminal record" means that the criminal record with the local county court clerk, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations are destroyed. However, private background companies that obtain and store criminal records will still have their criminal record on you. Those privately held records are available to anyone willing to pay the fee for access to the records. The criminal "files" with the prosecuting agencies: police department, district attorney's office; are not destroyed and available to other law enforcement agencies for inspection. When completing employment, school, licensing applications, speak with an experienced attorney as to how to answer the questions about any prior arrests and/or convictions that have been expunged.

Mistake 7: A Misdemeanor Conviction Will Not Cause Me to be Deported.

The United States is host to many non-citizens who are legally employed and productive members of our communities. Many of my clients have been visiting professors at the local universities and hospitals. Many more are employed by multi-national companies in the Nashville area. Unfortunate situations sometimes occur and criminal charges are brought against these guests. Too often people are enticed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor to "get it over with." Many misdemeanors will result in immigration initiating deportation proceedings. A conviction for misdemeanor possession or casual exchange of more than thirty grams of marijuana triggers mandatory deportation. Consult a criminal defense attorney with knowledge of the immigration consequences triggered upon a guilty plea to a crime.

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