What is Self-Incrimination and How Can I Avoid It While in Custody?

Once you have been arrested, you are in a very precarious position. The moment your encounter with law enforcement begins, you are at risk of putting yourself in unnecessary jeopardy in ways you may not even realize. Law enforcement are incredibly savvy and have many ways of getting you to confess to or implicate yourself in crimes you may not have committed! We commonly represent clients who did not realize that they were self-incriminating while in custody, so it is important to understand what self-incrimination is and how you can avoid it.

What is Self-Incrimination?

Self-incrimination refers to giving statements or providing other evidence that can be used against you in court to prove that you committed the crime you are accused of. We hear about this often because, under the Fifth Amendment, all individuals are protected under the Constitution from being forced to incriminate themselves.

How Does Self-Incrimination Happen?

Self-incrimination can happen for many reasons. For starters, Arizona’s jails and prisons have many measures in place ostensibly to prevent that no communications taking place within them are being used to facilitate criminal activity. This includes screening mail and recording suspects’ phone calls. Information obtained as a result of these measures can be used in court against you. The general exception is if the information is discussed between you and your attorney for the purposes of your legal representation, then it cannot be used against you in court under the doctrine of “privileged communications.”

Further, self-incrimination often happens when individuals either do not know their rights or do not know how to successfully assert them. You have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney under the Fifth Amendment, however many people do not realize until it is too late that they must unambiguously assert both of these rights in order for them to take effect. If you do not explicitly tell the police that you are invoking your right to remain silent, and that you are invoking your right to an attorney, neither right will be afforded to you.

If you do not invoke your right to remain silent, any comments you make or other evidence you provide “can and will be used against you in court,” as you have likely heard on T.V. crime dramas. You may think that you would recognize tricks that police officers use to get people to confess to crimes or otherwise implicate themselves, but in the stress of the moment, in a jail or prison or interrogation cell under harsh lights, you will likely be scared and confused.

How Can I Avoid Incriminating Myself While in Custody?

The most important thing to remember is to assert both your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. At Arizona Lawyers, we frequently intervene on behalf of those in custody to ensure they are not manipulated or taken advantage of during interrogations. If you or a loved one has been arrested, do yourself and your family a favor an call our experienced attorneys. We serve clients in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Yuma, Flagstaff, and Glenndale areas, and are always one phone call away. Protect your rights: contact Arizona Lawyers today.