As a criminal defense attorney, I come across a lot of myths and misconceptions daily. Plenty of criminal defense myths focus on easy ways for a defendant to avoid charges. Unfortunately, for most people who are charged with a crime, these myths are just that – myths. Believing them won’t help your case and might even make things worse for you. Let’s debunk these myths once and for all, so that everyone is on the same page.
You Can’t Be Found Guilty if They Didn’t Read You Your Rights
Many criminal defense myths focus on the Miranda rights. You’ve heard it all before – you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney, and so on. Since reading a person their rights when they’re taken into custody standard, a lot of people think that if a cop doesn’t read you your rights, you can get off scot-free. The reality is a bit more tricky.
A cop doesn’t have to read you your rights, unless he plans on questioning you. If the cops don’t recite the Miranda rights, then question you, any answer you give can be suppressed in court and not used as evidence against you, as long as your lawyer can prove that you weren’t given the warning.
A Polygraph Can Prove All
Don’t take a polygraph or lie detector test and think that it will definitively prove your innocence. Criminal defense is about much more than a positive polygraph, as there are plenty of ways that defendants can game the test. There are also ways for the prosecution to use the test against you. I recommend not taking a lie detector test unless you’ve discussed it with your attorney first.
You Can’t Be Charged with a DUI if You Refuse a Breathalyzer
In Michigan, you can’t drive a car with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above 0.08 if you’re older than 21. If you’re found guilty of drunk driving with a BAC between 0.08 and 0.17, you can be fined up to $500 or spend up to 93 days in jail. The penalties are worse if your BAC is above 0.17. For some reason, the myth persists that if you refuse the breathalyzer test, the court can’t charge you. That’s actually far from the truth. If you refuse the test, you may automatically get your license suspended for a year.
A Penny Can Fool a Breathalyzer
Here’s a myth that’s been floating around for at least 20 years. The myth goes that if you put a few pennies in your mouth before taking a breathalyzer, the copper in the pennies will trick the machine and throw off the readings. Aside from the fact that today’s pennies barely have any copper in them anyway; the metal won’t trick the breathalyzer. All shoving a bunch of pennies into your mouth will do is convince the cops that you’re even more drunk that you seem.
An Undercover Cop Has to Reveal His Identity
This is one of my favorite myths. Some claim that they should be found innocent because they asked an undercover cop if they were undercover and the cop said no. Contrary to popular belief, a cop doesn’t have to reveal their identity when asked. That would defeat the whole point of being undercover.
You’re Innocent If You Didn’t Actively Participate in the Crime
Here’s another doozy of a myth. Some defendants believe that since they didn’t actively engage in a crime, they’re completely innocent. If you knew your friends were about to rob a convenience store, but you stayed behind in the car, that doesn’t absolve you of guilt. If you help out in any way, such as by driving your friends to the store, you can be found guilty of being an accessory to the crime.
Criminal Defense Attorneys are Dishonest People
This last myth really gets under my skin and really hits home. In the US, everyone has a right to an attorney and everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Criminal defense attorneys aren’t morally bankrupt. We don’t help evil people or make the world a worse place. On the contrary, defense attorneys can make the country better, as we’re willing to stick up for the rights of the accused and make sure every person has their rights protected.