Dispelling Common Criminal Law Myths

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At times, the law may seem pretty straightforward, but your rights are often much more complicated than you might think. Portrayals in media can mislead you in some cases and completely lie to you in others, leading to a warped view of your rights and when you can exercise them. Whether you’re charged with a DUI or murder, here are 7 pervasive myths to keep in mind, straight from the mouth of a veteran Richmond criminal defense attorney.

1. Evidence Is Inadmissible If There Was No Search Warrant

The search warrant is one of the most common legal devices in pop culture, but it’s often misunderstood and that can lead to serious problems. On the surface, a search warrant is required if the police want to search you or your belongings, but there are quite a few exceptions that let the police waive that need completely.

For example, if they have reasonable suspicion that you have something illegal in your car, they can search it without needing a search warrant. Only when they fail to have that reasonable suspicion is a search warrant required, but keep in mind that the bar for reasonable suspicion can be very low.

2. The Police Can’t Lie to You

Many accused individuals are surprised to learn that there is almost nothing stopping the police from lying to you if they believe it would help their investigation. There are some restrictions on what a police officer can lie about, but they are much narrower than one might expect. For example, a police officer isn’t allowed to threaten you or make promises contingent upon your confession, they can lie upon most other things and mislead you about the nature of the case.

3. The Police Must Read You Your Rights

The Miranda Rights have become a staple of pop culture, but TV and movies can be pretty misleading about exactly when the police are required to actually read them to you. While it’s true that your rights must be read to you if you are taken into custody, the reality is that most encounters with the police don’t involve that major step. If the police want to ask you a few questions, then they don’t have to read you your rights regardless of how aggressive the questions might be. It’s only when they officially arrest you that they have to read you your rights.

4. You Must Help the Police

Most people know that you can’t lie to the police, but that doesn’t actually extend to keeping silent. If the police ask you questions that you don’t feel comfortable answering, you don’t have to answer outside of a few key exceptions, such as needing to provide identifying information if the police believe you are currently, about to, or have recently committed a crime.

If you are taken into police custody, then you have the right to consult your attorney before answering any question. In fact, you have the right to refuse to answer almost any questions you don’t want to answer either.

5. You Are Guaranteed a Phone Call Under the Law

Another surprise to most people is that you aren’t necessarily guaranteed a phone call after you’ve been arrested. This misconception may come from the fact that a small minority of states do require that arrested individuals get phone calls, including New York, Illinois, and California, three of the biggest places when it comes to crime drama settings. For the majority of states, including Virginia, there is no statewide law and it will come down to local laws.

6. Fingerprints, DNA, and Video Evidence Are Necessary to Convict

The rise of shows like CSI have made it seem like an abundance of highly technical evidence is needed to secure most convictions, but that isn’t really the case. The testimony of witnesses and investigating officers is often enough to seal most convictions, especially if the crime is less serious than murder, as that kind of TV show so often focuses on. The simple fact is that an abundance of physical proof isn’t needed to close most cases.

7. The Law Is Always the Law

The law varies from state to state and county to county, but that’s not the impression you might get from the news and TV. a DUI in one state might not be considered a DUI in another, nor are the consequences going to be the same for a conviction. What is legal and illegal in New York doesn’t necessarily apply to Virginia, nor do the methods and their legality. If you want to protect your rights, it’s important to educate yourself on the specifics of where you live, not what you see on TV. Even if you live in the same place that a show takes place, remember that they likely take a lot of liberties and end up with inaccuracies either in the interest of making a good story or because they were in a rush.

What You Should Do

If you’re worried about your rights, then it’s time to get in touch with a Richmond criminal defense attorney. Here at Vaughan C. Jones Attorney at Law, not only can we explain your rights, but we can also help you with your case and determining the next step.

Give us a call today (804) 207-5735 or contact us online to get started.

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