Can we be a little less helpful?

I was representing a young man in Howard County, Maryland this past week on a DUI charge. The defendant was trying to be a good samaritan when he went out to pick up a friend who needed a ride; unfortunately, he had a few drinks before venturing out. He was stopped by the police on a completely unrelated matter and was arrested after they smelled alcohol on his breath and engaged the normal field sobriety tests. Following the arrest the good samaritan defendant sang like a bird and told the police officer everything that he had to drink and that he knew he should not have been drinking. The police indicated in the report that the defendant was “very polite and cooperative”; browny points for the defendant right? WRONG!

As I have indicated in the past, while it is always important to be respectful and courteous to the men and woman in blue, that does not mean that a defendant should hang themselves out or convict themselves with their admissions to the police. Please remember that anything you say to the police in a traffic stop CAN AND WILL be used against you in a court of law. Therefore, zip it up and say nothing (and while were on the topic- do nothing as well, no field tests). The Miranda warnings were developed to protect citizens in just this type of situation; however Maryland’s appellate courts have determined that Miranda warnings do not apply until an arrest has been made. Therefore, no Miranda warnings but you still face jeopardy for talking to the police and ratting yourself out. That is to say, you are not helping yourself when you tell the police you had 7 drinks 5 minutes ago and you are very sorry and can you leave now.

But hey, don’t take my word for it, take the police officer’s word for it. When I was in court defending this case, I spoke with the officer before hand. The officer told me, “your client was a little too cooperative in this case” in other words, too much talking. Loose lips sink ships as it were and this is a police officer talking.

The state’s attorney in the case was somewhat miffed when I indicated I wanted a trial in this case because a reasonable plea offer was extended to the Defendant. He went so far as to indicate that if we went to trial the recommendation would change from probation to jail. Well, we never got that far because the DUI trial was won very early on with a Motion to Suppress and the Defendant left with a clean record and a smile.

He also left with my recommendation to him and anybody else that might find themselves in this unfortunate situation. That is, be respectful of the police and the job they are doing, but for pete’s sake, keep your mouth zipped and don’t testify against yourself, don’t make the state’s job easy by making all kinds of admissions which will devastate your defense later.

The government has a hundred and one tricks they can play to attempt to convict you. They have the vast resources of the state and the entire police department, they have the benefit of the doubt in court when a defendant is charged with this offense. Do not make their job even easier by ratting yourself out.