Many people accused of criminal charges in Massachusetts are understandably nervous about their future. Many people are curious about what it takes to get a case thrown out, as no one wants to face the possible penalties for a misdemeanor or felony. Most people know by now that a law enforcement officer is required to read apprehended persons their rights before they arrest them so, naturally, many wonder if their case can be thrown out if the law enforcement officer never read them their rights at all. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a possibility.
While it is true that police are required to read all people their rights, they are only required to read people these important rights if they are currently in police custody and the police plan to ask them questions or interrogate them, leading to answers that might incriminate them down the line. We’ve all seen tv shows and movies where cases are dismissed from this slip up on the cop’s behalf, but it’s not as common of an occurrence as you may think.
All Americans are protected, under the United States Constitution, against “self-insemination.” The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution (and Article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights) assert that all accused people have the right to have a lawyer assist them if they have been, or may soon be, accused of a criminal offense, in addition to the right to be spared forced self-incrimination.
It’s true that these rights are to be upheld under the law at all times. They provide a significant means of protecting citizens from police abuse of power and misconduct, and from making any self-incriminating statements, confessions or admissions of guilt against ourselves by accident. However, if a law enforcement officer doesn’t read you your rights at a traffic stop, this isn’t the homerun case you may be imagining. It doesn’t mean your case is automatically thrown out. Only those who have made self-incriminating statements to a law enforcement officer (whether purposely or accidentally) while under arrest or in custody can have these statements suppressed (excluded from the trial). Of course, the courts must be able to prove that their rights were already read.
What Happens If My Rights Were Read To Me But I Didn’t Understand Them?
As with any other legal proceedings, there are many other factors that could cause a case to be thrown out due to reading of the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. If you were arrested and did not have the capacity to understand your rights, this could be a reason why your case could be thrown out. An individual’s intelligence (ability to reason and understand, lack of medical handicap or impairment, etc.) is certainly a factor that judges and a jury will evaluate when they are deciding if you were able to understand your rights at the time.
Additionally, those who have their rights read to them are still allowed to waive them. Similarly, if you were read your rights and were not able to understand them enough to waive them, your statement may be suppressed as well. For example, if someone is mentally disabled, incapacitated, or too distressed to understand or waive their rights, this will all be evaluated in court and could potentially lead to the case being dropped.
What Happens If I Incriminate Myself On Accident?
Legal processes can be difficult to understand, and many people incriminate themselves by accident in the heat of the moment. If you’ve apologized at the scene of the crime, admitted fault, assumed yourself to be guilty, or even posted evidence online of the crime, you’ll need a strong criminal defense attorney to get you out of this situation. This is technically self-incrimination and, even if the officer failed to read you your rights, you will have to defend yourself in court after making this kind of statement.
In Massachusetts, if you are formally convicted of the crime you admitted to doing, you may be sentenced to time in the state prison or the county house of correction. For less serious crimes, defined as misdemeanors, these crimes are not punishable by a sentence in state prison. These charges typically result in the following sentences: time in the house of correction, probation, community services, legal fees, and more.
If you have incriminated yourself, call Toland Law as soon as possible. Attorney Paul Toland is a former assistant district attorney who has the experience and skill to defend you against any possible situation in court. Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with Toland Law today.