Criminal Law >> Iowa Criminal Process
I see a lot of people asking for free legal advice or asking what will happen in their criminal cases on websites like Avvo and Justia. A lot of the answers I see on these sites are curt, rude, or flat-out unhelpful. Who wants to be told to “call an attorney” with no further help when they’re already on a website asking for input from attorneys? Worse yet, who wants to be told to “just Google it” when the internet is rife with nonsense answers from strangers with no more legal background than you have yourself? Advice like this isn’t just useless, it’s insulting. Before you even call an attorney, you should know not to talk to the police and you should know how to invoke your Miranda right to remain silent and right to an attorney.
If the police have asked to talk to you about a crime or if you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime in Iowa, you may find yourself overwhelmed. The obvious thing to do is to call an Iowa criminal defense attorney, but before you make that call, there are plenty of things you can and should do to to help yourself. If you’re looking for free legal advice, here are a few quick things to remember.
Don’t talk to the police
No, not even just to explain that you were innocent. I don’t care how helpful or sympathetic the officer sounds. He or she might be a good person and really want the best for you. That doesn’t matter. The easy truth is that you aren’t going to help yourself by talking to the police. Get an attorney before you talk to the police.
Police can lie to you during interrogations. They can claim to have evidence that they don’t have. They can tell you that your friends said you did something even if they’ve never met your friends. If you’re flustered and say something that isn’t the whole truth during interrogation but then try to clear it up later, your statements during interrogation can be used to impeach you in court and make you look like a liar.
Do not ever, ever confess to a crime that you didn’t commit and assume that you can just clear things up later. DNA exoneration has proven that lots of people confess to crimes they didn’t commit so that they can get out of police custody and go home to their families. People sometimes feel pressured into confessing to things that they didn’t do so that they can go home. Don’t do this.
Invoke your rights
Did the police read you your Miranda rights? You know, you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney, that whole bit? If they didn’t, there might be grounds for throwing out the answers to any questions they asked you, but most likely, if you were arrested, you were read your constitutional rights.
Hearing your rights isn’t enough, though. Just staying silent doesn’t count as invoking your right to remain silent. Yes, seriously. If you want to invoke your right to remain silent — and you absolutely need to remain silent.
Courts have held that you have to “unambiguously” assert your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. “Unambiguously” means there can’t be more than one interpretation of what you’re saying. Check out this case where a defendant said “just give me a lawyer, dawg,” and the police pretended that the guy wasn’t obviously asking for an attorney — and the court upheld it!
Free legal advice: invoke your constitutional rights (your “Miranda rights”) by starting off with “I want to remain silent” and “I want an attorney.” Police questioning should stop until you’ve gotten to speak to your attorney once you’ve invoked these rights.
(As a tangential footnote, Ernesto Miranda, the guy for whom Miranda rights were named, was not a cool dude. He is not the patron saint of constitutional rights. He was a guy who was arrested for kidnapping and rape. Miranda’s lawyers got his conviction overturned because Miranda hadn’t been told prior to investigation that he had a right to remain silent and a right to an attorney. Free legal advice: take advantage of your Miranda rights but don’t be a kidnapping rapist like Mr. Miranda allegedly was.)
(As another aside, your lawyer can help you check and make sure your other rights, such as your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, have been properly observed.)
Do tell your lawyer what the state knows
Your lawyer doesn’t need you to tell them everything all the time. In fact, there are times when the less you explicitly tell your lawyer, the more creative they’ll be in imagining paths to reasonable doubt.
What you do need to tell your lawyer is what the state knows and what the state could find out. If you tell your attorney that you have an alibi when you really don’t, they won’t be much help when the state shreds that alibi.
You also need to not lie to your attorney or to the court. You do also need to understand that lying to thbo
e court under oath is a crime. That crime is called “perjury” and it is a class D felony in Iowa. Your lawyer is an officer of the court. If your attorney knows that you’ve lied under oath, they have to take “remedial measures” that could include withdrawing from your case or making it apparent to the court that you lied. Don’t lie.
While you don’t necessarily need to tell your lawyer everything, don’t lie to your lawyer and don’t lie to the court. Prosecution for perjury will just make more of a problem for you and make it harder to get your life straightened out.
Free legal advice in summary:
Don’t talk to the police, do invoke your constitutional right / Miranda right to an attorney and right to remain silent, and don’t lie to your attorney or to the court.
If you’ve been charged with a crime in Iowa and you’d like free legal advice about what steps to take next and whether you need an attorney, call (515) 491 6128, click “chat now” on any page on this website, or go to the “Contact Us” page to send us an email.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.
If you’ve been charged with possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance, OWI, or other public offenses in Iowa, ask your attorney whether there are grounds to have any of the state’s evidence suppressed.