Lies You’re Being Told About the Police

Everyone has a “fun” tip about your rights, the police, and how crimes are solved. Hollywood perpetuates many of these lies, embedding them in tv shows and movies which often result in dangerous misconceptions.

A lot of people go into a police interaction armed with misinformation provided to them by their friends or Hollywood, and it can end in your legal situation becoming even more complicated. We believe in the power of knowledge and how it can protect you from self-incrimination and keep you out of jail.

So, what are some common misconceptions, and what’s the truth behind them?

Myth: The Police Must Identify Themselves

Law firms everywhere deal with this scenario: a client comes to them because they interacted with an undercover cop and the cop told them “no” when they asked them directly if they’re a cop. In movies, they want you to believe a cop has to tell you they’re a cop even if they’re undercover. Do not assume a cop will ever identify themselves, especially when undercover. In fact, requiring cops to identify themselves when asked during undercover operations could put the officer(s) AND others in danger.

The truth: Officers don’t have to identify themselves to you if they’re undercover. Obviously, an officer in uniform has already identified themselves. It is NOT entrapment for an officer to lie to you during the course of your committing a crime unless the lies were told to push you into committing a crime you weren’t already intending on committing.

Myth: You’re Free to Go if the Police Don’t Read You Your Miranda Rights

We’ve all heard about Miranda Rights in every cop show and maybe even if you’ve been arrested before. Officers have a script they recite to suspects taken into custody to notify them of their right to remain silent, their right to an attorney, and that anything said can and will be used in a court of law. The rights were established by the Supreme Court in the 1966 case “Miranda v. Arizona.” Hollywood and word of mouth claim a suspect is free to go if police “forget” to read you these rights during the arrest process.

The truth: Officers have no obligation to read you your Miranda Rights. You will not be free to go if they don’t read you your rights. However, anything you say during the arrest process is likely to be impermissible in court if your rights aren’t read to you. Officers are only required to advise you of your Miranda Rights if (1) you are in custody AND (2) they are interrogating you. Both of those criteria must be present to require Miranda. Officers often won’t read you your rights during an arrest if there is no interrogation necessary (this happens in cases where police already know they have all the necessary evidence to arrest and convict a suspect).

Myth: The Insanity Defense Will Set You Free

This one is more of a problem in the media than it is in Hollywood, though we see it frequently in both. In the common scenario, a person is charged with a heinous and violent offense, but pleads insanity, stating a mental disorder prevented them from thinking logically at the time of the offense. Media coverage of these often overstates not only the frequency in which the defense is presented but also the frequency in which the defense is successful.

The truth: Studies show the insanity plea is applied in fewer than 1% of cases and only successful in a fraction of those cases. Alabama does allow defendants to use the “insanity defense,” but there are some states that do not, so understand your options if you’re ever charged with a crime elsewhere. The other issue with this one is that even if you are successful in pleading insanity, you will be sent to a mental institution where your sentence is indefinite.

Myth: you don’t need a lawyer until after you’re facing charges

Most people think you don’t need a lawyer until you’re already in trouble. Building a relationship with the lawyer often starts once you’re dealing with the police. After all, what can a lawyer do for you if you don’t have a defense to build?

The truth: the best way to equip yourself against common misconceptions is to have the right lawyer by your side from the beginning. When your life is on the line, Attorney John M. Totten has your back. Contact us today to make sure you know your rights and can decipher fact from fiction when you face the police.

John M. Totten