Many people charged with a crime assume that they only need an attorney when/if the case goes to trial, but this isn't true. Even before any charges are filed, law enforcement may try to get a confession out of a suspect using deception and coercion, and suspects need to have someone who can help them understand their rights.
A case involving a sex crimes conviction that was recently upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court shows that it is important for anyone who fears they may be charged with a crime to seek the help of a qualified criminal defense attorney right away; even before their first interaction with law enforcement.
In 2007, a 22-year-old Wisconsin man was asked to come into the police station for voluntary questioning. A couple that had been friends with the young man told police that their 5-year-old daughter reported being inappropriately touched by him.
Because the interview was voluntary, the suspect was never read his Miranda rights. Nonetheless, officers used a variety of tactics during the 80-minute interview to get him to confess to the crime. These tactics included overstating the evidence against him, lying about how a felony conviction would impact his job status and lying about his right to call an attorney if they arrested him that day.
Under the weight of this misinformation, the young man felt compelled to confess and was later convicted. He then appealed the ruling, saying that his confession was obtained through coercion and deception on the part of law enforcement.
The conviction was upheld by an appellate court and, most recently, by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Please check back later this week as we continue our discussion. We'll talk about why a majority of the state Supreme Court felt that such law enforcement measures were acceptable, and why all criminal suspects should seek the help of a criminal defense attorney immediately.
Source: State Bar of Wisconsin, "In Criminal Case, Supreme Court Upholds Confession Despite Alleged Police Coercion," Joe Forward, Jan. 9, 2013