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The Right To Remain Silent: How New Jersey Police Get Statements

Everyone is so familiar with the standard Miranda warning that they can almost repeat it by memory: “you have the right to remain silent and anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.” In general, police use a form in which they read the suspect their rights from a sheet and then ask the person to initial, sign and date the form. Since almost all custodial interviews by police are now videotaped or recorded, it is difficult to prove that the police violated the suspect’s rights by failing to give the Miranda warning.

Fortunately, the days when some police would use a phone book to the side of the head to cooerce a confession are mostly gone. However, in its place is something that is actually more effective and used frequently. Essentially, it involves the police making promises they have no authority to keep about how cooperation and giving a statement (really what they mean is a confession) will somehow help the suspect. Common sense and reason dictate that confessing to a crime is not going to help a suspect.

The police know this and make promises about what the consequence is of giving a statement in terms of “we will go easier on you” or “charge you with this or that” or “we will recommend” something to the prosecutor. These promises are all intended to give the police leverage.

There is almost no situation in which someone helps themselves in any meaningful sense by giving a statement to the police. A prosecutor reviews what the charges are and then decides what to do. So, police are promising something they simply cannot deliver.

If You Are Arrested, Immediately Assert Your Right To Remain Silent And Demand A Lawyer. Do Not Sign Anything.

The only exception to this general rule is if you are arrested for DWI/DUI and asked to take a breathlyzer test to measure the blood alcohol content in your blood. Under New Jersey law, you have no right to refuse the test and will be charged with refusal to take the test which is a charge in itself. The penalties for refusal are the same for DWI/DUI and it is harder to challenge a refusal than the actual test results.

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