I tell you, a confession is a criminal defense attorney's worst nightmare. We hate confessions by clients. The most powerful evidence that the prosecutor could use against any criminal defendant — in my opinion, having done this for twenty-five years — is when they confess to the crime or when they say something that amounts to a confession and they are not even sure why they were arrested. It's really the same thing. So, what we try to do as criminal defense attorneys, if your client is going to fight the case and says they're innocent, we're trying to get rid of those confessions, because jurors always say wait a minute, if the guy didn't do it, why would he say he did it? That makes no sense. None of us would ever say we committed a crime if we didn't commit it. And of course, they're not considering all of the police tactics that are used against people. They're not considering that sometimes people are emotional. Sometimes they're intoxicated. There're all types of things that are going on in people's minds.
Have people confessed to crimes that they didn't commit? Absolutely. It happens all the time. The problem is being able to prove that is not easy at all. The first line of attack for a criminal defense attorney when you have a confession from a client and you have a case pending in one of the Los Angeles County courthouses is trying to get rid of the confession. We don't want that confession in there. The way that you try to do that is you use Miranda and use some of the other case law surrounding the Miranda decision and say wait a minute, before you're able to take this confession, we need to make sure that the client was read their rights if they were in custody and they're being asked direct questions or their functional equivalent – the same as a direct question – for example, you say to a guy in the back of a police car, hey we would sure like to know where you put that shotgun. There's a lot of small children around that area that can pick the shotgun up and hurt themselves. See, that's not a direct question, but it's a question designed to get the information from the client. That's a problem when it comes to Miranda. That's a problem when it comes to a confession.
Other times we're looking for police conduct that's overbearing where they're threatening the guy. Threatening his family, doing all sorts of different stuff. Yelling at him, screaming at him, trying to get him to confess. Telling him just tell us why you did it and we'll let you go. They do all sorts of different things to try to get that confession. But you always have to be cognizant when trying to decide how to deal with the confession. How bad is this confession? How does it impact the case? You have to think that the jurors are going to say, why would somebody confess to a criminal offense if they didn't commit it? So that's where your premise has to lie. I just bring that up, right off the top. If I'm attacking a confession in a Los Angeles case, I'm going to tell them, listen I know your mind is going to go right here, but let me tell you why it shouldn't go there. Let me tell you what's going on with this case. You don't know this case. You don't know what happened here. You don't know why this defendant said what he said. You don't have all the circumstances and neither did the police when they decided to give the case to the prosecutors, and neither did the prosecutors when they decided to file this case. We're going to give you all the details. We're going to give you the defense version of what happened. We're going to tell you from my client's perspective, exactly what happened – why he said what he said.
A lot of times the police embellish – they claim when there's a confession. I ask them okay, where's the tape? You got the tape? If you don't have the tape how are we supposed to believe you? You're in the competitive business of ferreting out crime. We can't necessarily believe what you're saying. So, the bottom line is, it's going to depend on the circumstances of the alleged confession and how you handle it. This is something I really sit down and take a hard look at with my clients, because obviously if you're convicted in a criminal case you're going to suffer all kinds of penalties. Especially, if you don't work out a resolution with the prosecutor or the judge, you're potentially looking at prison time and a lot more harsh punishment than if you would have worked out a deal with them.
So, before you take a case to trial in one of the LA courts, you sure as heck better have a conversation with your attorney, and if there's a confession in the case, you better figure out whether you can either get rid of that confession or explain it in such a way that a potential would say okay, I get it. I see what happened. I understand. I'm not going to believe that confession. I'm going to see if these guys have the evidence against the guy. I'm not going to necessarily take what they're claiming that he said. I'm going to see if the guy really did it. What evidence do they have to prove the case against him?
So, if you have a confession situation and are thinking about how you want to deal with it, or one of your loved ones does, give me a ring. We'll sit down and talk about it. I have a lot of experience in this area and we can really make some good decisions that will help you or your loved one preserve their rights and get the best possible resolution in their case – whether that be a jury trial or whether that be plea bargaining with the prosecutors.