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Common Misconceptions About Being Arrested For A Crime In California

Interviewer: What are the top misconceptions that people have about being arrested for crime, when they speak to you about their case?
Interviewer: I think there are going to be many misconceptions. Many times,people start saying something like, “I don’t know why I am calling, I was obviously guilty because I was arrested.” The problem with that statement is that, being arrested doesn’t mean you’re guilty of anything; it just means you were arrested. There is no way for a person to know, whether or not the officer did their job appropriately, and usually, people don’t know whether or not their constitutional or state statutory rights are being violated when an officer does perform their investigation.
A Lot of People Mistakenly Believe that If they’re Not Read their Miranda Rights the Case will be Dismissed
One of the other misconceptions deals with the Miranda warnings, which, I am sure we will discuss later, but for now a lot of people ask if a failure to advise of MirandaRights, will dismiss their case, and that’s not true. There is an issue that could be raised there, but it is not automatic.  Another issue is the assumption the badge is always right.  A lot of people come in and they say, the officer arrested me, obviously I am guilty. I have even had people ask me, how I can defend “those” people, when they find out that I am a criminal defense attorney. Because they assume, just like I mentioned earlier, ifsomeone was arrested then obviously, they would be guilty.  But officers are human, they make mistakes, they’re susceptible to certain biases that can clog their judgment.
Just Because a Person Has Been Arrested Does Not Mean That They’re a Criminal
I would say probably the biggest misconception, and it’s not just limited to those who are arrested, but it’s like the person arrested somehow transforms into a bad person.  Many of my clients come in and they are embarrassed just by the fact that they were arrested. The arrest made them feel like they now have a “criminal” label.Because of the arrest, even if it was just a simple mistake in judgment, or a simple misunderstanding.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Like I said earlier, many of the cases my office handles are DUI’s. I have had several clients who have happen to get pulled over after a family dinner out, a celebratory dinner; something of that nature. Being arrested doesn’t make you a criminal.  Being arrested, is just that, it is an arrest. Nothing more.
The Role of Miranda Rights in the California Criminal Process
Interviewer: Let’s say a person comes to you and says something along the lines of, “Well, I wasn’t read my Miranda warnings, does that mean my case is going to be dismissed?” Do a lot of people have that notion?
Scott Stotz:  People do bring that up, and that tends to be one of the first things they bring up.  However, with Miranda rights, they don’t necessarily apply unless somebody is in custody, and is going to be questioned. There are several exceptions, though. So when an officer initially contacts somebody, as long as that person doesn’t feel like they are being arrested, or they feel like they are free to leave, they are not technically being detained, so they are not in custody. So, anything that’s said can be used against that person by the officer, and the prosecuting attorney. So, whether that’s on the side of the road, at someone’s house, it doesn’t really make a difference where it’s at, so long, that person is free to leave.
A Violation in Miranda Rights Will Not Necessarily Dismiss the Case on it’s Own
When people come in and they say they start asking for a dismissal, because their rights weren’t read to them, while it’s unfortunate, my response is usually,“That may become an issue, but for now it’s not.” Like is said earlier, a violation in Miranda rights will not necessarily dismiss the case on its own. It may cause some statements to be suppressed so that DA can’t use them against the individual. But that doesn’t become an issue until the later stages of a case.  And it won’t necessarily make or break the case.