Technology, Wrongful Arrest, and Your Right to Remain Silent
Society could not function without law enforcement. A swift and efficient police force is crucial to maintaining order. Of course, a police officer is just a person and people make mistakes. And unfortunately, when a police officer makes a mistake, the results can be devastating. A wrongful arrest can ruin someone’s life, even if not convicted of the charge for which they are arrested. Additionally, wrongful arrests have consequences for many others in the community.
Whenever one may have been potentially involved within a traffic incident that may have involved hit and run, (leaving the scene of accident) or other possible situation that could subject one to legal harm, it is always advisable to take great care as to what is posted on social media. While an anxious conscience may seek out the reassurance of others to alleviate one’s stress, recording one’s feelings for public review is never a wise course of legal conduct.
More specifically, online discussions as to legal scenarios that could be misinterpreted as admissions to the comission of certain offenses most always be taken into account when engaging within internet legal discussions. In the final analysis, the online debater never knows what law enforcement agent could be monitoring the course of such online discussion; debate that could otherwise lead to one’s arrest if not careful.
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In 2012 in Evansville, Indiana, someone used an open wifi network to post anonymous threats against the local police. The Evansville police then sent in a SWAT team to execute a search warrant on a local home. With them they brought the local television news. The SWAT team knocked, and then almost immediately barged into the home, breaking a screen door and a window and sending two flashbangs into the home. The innocent family that was inside was released without charges as the police recognized their mistake. The police again targeted a different home on the same street. This time they did not use the same amount of force, but the investigation revealed no evidence that the suspect actually committed the crime. The taxpayers of Evansville paid for the repairs required as a result of the damage caused by the botched investigations.
Technology and internet crime poses a lot of problems for police. They can tell that a crime has occurred and they might even be able to pinpoint a general area where the crime happened. But there is no crime scene and no physical evidence. Often, cyber criminals are more technologically savvy than the police and can erase any evidence that leads back to them – or misdirect the police to a different source. This creates even more possibilities for mistaken arrests.
If you are arrested, you should not provide answers to the police. They will use your words against you, even if you are protesting your innocence. When you are arrested, they do not have to give you your Miranda warnings until they intend to start questioning you. It is in your best interests to stay silent.
It seems to logically follow that if you have the right to remain silent, your silence cannot be used against you in a court of law. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. In 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled in a case, Berghuis, Warden v. Thompson, that it is now the criminal suspect’s burden to invoke his right to remain silent. Your silence can now be used against you unless you affirmatively invoke your right. Contrary to logic, this means that you must say out loud that you are invoking your right to remain silent.
Ultimately, the only thing you should tell police is that you wish to speak to an experienced attorney. An attorney can help ensure that your rights are protected and that you have the best defense possible at trial.
However, following an arrest for drunk driving in Indiana, as has been conveyed elsewhere, the right to invoke the assistance of legal counsel does not attach to the ability to confer with counsel in deciding whether to submit to a certified breath test.
Consequently, other than compliance with breath testing do as to avoid the imposition of mandatory license suspensions, in almost all other aspects of a criminal investigation, it is not often within the interests of the accused or investigated to cooperate as to the course of an ongoing investigation without the aid of experienced legal counsel.