I have a secret – I’m a huge fan of police dramas. On the rare nights where I don’t have a meeting or work to do, I watch the same procedural police shows that the rest of Tennessee is watching. But unlike most of my neighbors, I’m watching them from the unique perspective of a criminal defense attorney. And what I’ve discovered is that I often get calls or answer questions from people who believe that what they see on TV is correct.
The truth is, most of it isn’t.
For example: in every police procedural, we watch cops reading a suspected criminal his or her Miranda rights. But you’re only ever read your Miranda rights if the police want to question you – they can arrest you without reading them at all.
Or how about the way every cop on TV tells the truth about everything all the time? In many cases, a cop will tell an outright lie to a person he or she is questioning, just to see how the suspect reacts. It’s not illegal and there’s literally nothing you can do except choose not to answer.
My personal favorite, if you could call it such a thing, is how television police make deals with their suspects. In reality, law enforcement officials have no right to make deals with the men and women they arrest. And as a criminal defense attorney, this is particularly troublesome to me: I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken with who have relayed information at inopportune times based on the alleged deal they’ve made with the cops.
Being arrested on criminal charges, from shoplifting to first degree murder, is always a serious business. You don’t want to rely on what television and movies has “taught” you about the criminal justice process, or what you think might be true based on rumors you’ve heard. What you want to do is call a lawyer – immediately. We’re the ones who know what your rights really are, and we’re the people who are best equipped to help you.
I’m not saying you should stop watching the police dramas you love – just don’t believe everything you see and hear. Your future could depend on it.