If we can give one golden piece of advice for people being questioned by police without your attorney present it is this: JUST REMAIN SILENT. You’ve heard of Miranda Rights, which are read to you when you are arrested. Know that YOU HAVE THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT! Use it! We often find our clients fall into one of two mindsets:
1) I’m innocent so why wouldn’t I cooperate?
2) I’m smarter than the cops.
Routinely we advise that “never in the history of cooperating and giving a statement has it been found to actually be helpful.” In fact, when we are confronted with a statement that is blatantly different from what our clients tell us they said to police – we aren’t surprised. We find that most often had they not signed their Miranda Waiver and talked then we would have a better leg to stand on.
The police are not your friend when you are being arrested. When you do cooperate and tell them what they want to know, they won’t let you go free. You will be charged with a crime. Again, exercise your constitutional right and REMAIN SILENT until you’ve spoken with an attorney. Another key piece of advice? If they ask for a stress test or a polygraph, the answer is “NO.”
Polygraphs are inadmissible in a court of law because they are inaccurate in determining whether someone is telling the truth or not. The real trick is that when a person is under examination of a polygrapher, he or she believes that the testing is scientifically accurate.
So how do lie detector tests / polygraphs work? They monitor vital signs like blood pressure and heart rates. When a person is under pressure or anxious their blood pressure and heart rate increases. There are a myriad of reasons why a person’s vitals change – including underlying medical causes, medications, fear, and stress. A polygrapher uses his or her experience to assess the situation, as well. His or her assessment is based upon subjective analysis and past experiences. What that means is what is orange to one person may be terra cotta to another person. Therefore, false results occur due to operator bias rather than reliance on science.
Now, while polygraphs are not admissible in court, they do provide the police with valuable insight. One technique utilized is referred to as ‘guilty knowledge testing’. In other words, the polygrapher will introduce a nugget of information that only a guilty person would know. Multiple choice questions are asked to see whether the subject has a bodily response to a fact only the guilty would know. Even more egregious is when a polygrapher convinces a subject that they are lying and gets them to go along with the story line. This is commonplace in the field of law enforcement. These are the reasons why men and women are exonerated after new evidence comes out years later, even after “failing” a polygraph. By that time the innocent person may have spent years behind bars.
The moral of the story? If you find yourself under arrest, remain silent and ask for an attorney! And when you are looking for an attorney, make sure they are experienced with police arrest and questioning techniques.