While most people seem to understand, it is important to point out that each and every person who is charged with a crime (that is, every person who is subject to the loss of freedom via jail or prison time) has the right to hire a Minnesota criminal defense attorney of their own choosing (or, if they cannot afford to hire a private attorney, to have a court-appointed lawyer (public defender)).
Also importantly, is the attorney-client privilege that immediately applies to confidential communications between the client and the attorney (even if the client ends up not hiring the attorney, i.e., just consults with the attorney). At least in theory, the attorney-client privilege is intended to allow a client to be candid and honest while communicating with their lawyer. I definitely see this important right at work on a consistent basis in my private practice.
As a competent, experienced and zealous Minnesota criminal defense attorney, I will not only fight for and protect your rights, but also make sure you are fully aware of all of your rights, including the following constitutional rights:
~The right to a trial to the Court ("Bench Trial") or to a jury of either 6 or 12 persons in which you could only be found guilty if all jurors agreed that you were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt;
~The right to confront and cross-examine all witnesses against you;
~The right to subpoena and present defense witnesses on your own behalf;
~The right to remain silent or to testify for yourself;
~The right to be presumed innocent unless and until the prosecution proves the charges against me beyond a reasonable doubt; and
~The right to a Pre-Trial hearing to contest the admissibility at trial of any confessions or statements you may have made to the police, and to contest evidence the police obtained against you through searches and seizures.
Investigated? Hire a Lawyer ASAP!
*Note: Also, if you have yet to be actually charged with a crime (for example, if the police are investigating a matter and want to get an interview from you—regardless of whether they label you as a “witness,” “person of interest,” or “suspect”), it is critical that you understand that:
~You Have a Right to Remain Silent;
~Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You; and
~You Have the Right To Have an Attorney Present.
I cannot stress this enough: I highly recommend that you ASSERT your Right to Remain Silent, i.e., do NOT speak with the police, provide a statement or submit to an interrogation--no matter what the cop tells you (or how bad they may try to scare you). If a statement is really necessary (and it is generally not!), then you should exercise your right to have your lawyer present during any and all questioning.
If a statement is really necessary (and it is generally not!), then you should exercise your right to have your lawyer present during any and all questioning.
The media and pundits always try to spin a person's exercise of their Right to Remain Silent as equaling automatic guilt. You will hear things like:
If he’s innocent, what does he have to hide?
If I didn’t do anything, I would cooperate!
This is BS! Anything and everything you say, no matter how truthful or innocent it may seem, WILL be used against you later on—YOU CAN COUNT ON IT!!
Innocent people are not only charged with crimes that they did not commit, but are also wrongly convicted and sentenced to prison on a not so infrequent basis. Just do a Google search on the terms “wrongly accused” or “DNA exoneration” and you will be amazed at how many innocent people have been railroaded and have had their lives destroyed—often the result of, at least in part, on their failure to exercise their legal rights, such as the Right to Remain Silent.
Can you imagine losing 1 day, 6 months, or 19 years of your life!!
Exhibit A of an innocent person who (narrowly) escaped being wrongly charged and convicted (although she had her reputation and life ruined) is Patricia “Patsy” Ramsey—mother of JonBenét Ramsey, the 6 year old little beauty queen who was savagely murdered in her own home in Boulder, Colorado on Christmas in 1996.
From the very start, the police (and especially the media) made Mrs. Ramsey a prime suspect (although they may have labeled her with the fictional “person of interest” title that is now fashionable for police to label a suspect)—convicting her in the media. Mrs. Ramsey and her husband, John, initially cooperated with police (without having a criminal defense attorney present). However, and fortunately for Mrs. Ramsey, when it became clear that Mrs. Ramsey’s innocence was being questioned and her loss of freedom was likely eminent, she SMARTLY (via the suggestion and urging of others) hired a competent, experienced and zealous criminal defense attorney.
In my opinion, by hiring a criminal defense attorney early on, Mrs. Ramsey likely saved herself from being wrongly charged and convicted of the gruesome murder of her own daughter.
On July 9, 2008 (12 years after JonBenét’s murder), the Boulder Colorado District Attorney’s Office formally announced (as a result, in part, of a newly developed DNA sampling and testing technique) that both Mrs. Ramsey and her husband were no longer suspects in the murder of their own daughter. In fact, which is very unusual, John Ramsey was given a letter officially apologizing to the Ramsey family:
"This new scientific evidence convinces us...to state that we do not consider your immediate family, including you, your wife, Patsy, and your son, Burke, to be under any suspicion in the commission of this crime.
...The match of Male DNA on two separate items of clothing worn by the victim at the time of the murder makes it clear to us that an unknown male handled these items. There is no innocent explanation for its incriminating presence at three sites on these two different items of clothing that JonBenét was wearing at the time of her murder. ... To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime, I am deeply sorry. No innocent person should have to endure such an extensive trial in the court of public opinion, especially when public officials have not had sufficient evidence to initiate a trial in a court of law. ... We intend in the future to treat you as the victims of this crime, with the sympathy due you because of the horrific loss you suffered. ... I am aware that there will be those who will choose to continue to differ with our conclusion. But DNA is very often the most reliable forensic evidence we can hope to find and we rely on it often to bring to justice those who have committed crimes. I am very comfortable that our conclusion that this evidence has vindicated your family is based firmly on all of the evidence,..."
Unfortunately, Mrs. Ramsey did not live to see her name exonerated, as she passed away as a result of ovarian cancer in 2006.
As I tell all prospective clients:
Whether you are 150% innocent or 150% guilty,
under no circumstance should you speak with the government agent without having a lawyer present.
Hire a competent, experienced and zealous criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Call Me, Matthew L. Thornton, Esq.: (651) 699-2007