We’ve all heard it a thousand times on T.V. and in the movies, “You have the right to remain silent ….” But unfortunately, many people who are arrested make statements to the police and/or prosecutors in an effort to exonerate themselves. Most times, those statements actually hurt the defendant. Other times, even after being read their rights, defendants outright confess. Normally, questioning of a defendant is done by detectives or assistant district attorneys who are clearly adversarial to the defendant.
However, in 2007, the Queens District Attorney’s Office implemented a program whereby assistant district attorneys conduct pre-arraignment interviews of defendants as they proceed through the booking process before they have been arraigned (brought before a judge) and before they have had the opportunity to obtain an attorney.
While law enforcement is free to ask a defendant if they will answer questions after they have been read their Miranda rights, the problem with the pre-arraignment questioning program in Queens is that before the defendant is informed of their right to remain silent they are asked the following three questions:
1. If you would like us to investigate an alibi, please give us as much information as you can, including the names of any people you were with.
2. If your version of the events of that day differs from what we have heard, this is an opportunity if you so choose, to tell us your story.
3. If there is something you would like us to investigate concerning this incident, if you tell us about it, we will look into it.
Those three questions make it appear as if the assistant district attorneys are perhaps neutral or maybe even there to assist the defendant. It falsely conveys the position that they are disinterested. Ethics professor Ellen Yaroshefsky of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law believes “[t]he context of the interview misleads and deliberately induces the defendant to believe that there is an urgency to speak now when there is no advantage to him doing so prior to appointment of counsel. . .”
Currently, the Queens District Attorney, Richard A. Brown is attempting to block Acting Supreme Court Justice Joel L. Blumenfeld from ruling on the ethics of this pre-arraignment questioning process.
Anyone arrested must understand that there is virtually nothing you can tell the police or the district attorney that will get you released on the spot. Furthermore, once you’re arrested, the goal is to avoid a conviction. In that regard, nothing you say to law enforcement can help you. If you have information that can prove your innocence or that you think is important for your case, tell your defense attorney. Nothing good can come from a suspect or a defendant speaking with the police without first speaking with their own qualified defense attorney.
If you, a loved one or a friend have been arrested, feel free to call Tilem & Campbell toll free at 1-877-377-8666 or visit us on the web at www.888AnyCrime.com.