Just about everyone knows that they have the right to have an attorney present to advocate for them during a criminal trial. Fewer people know that your right to an attorney extends to every significant step in the criminal justice process – including during police interrogations and line-ups. Here are some of the reasons why having an attorney present during these crucial moments can mean the difference between a successful defense strategy and a conviction.
During police questioning
The law requires police to remind you of your right to an attorney when they take you into custody, and again before each questioning session. If you clearly invoke this right using affirmative, unambiguous language – such as by saying “I am invoking my right to an attorney” – then the police must cease questioning until your attorney arrives.
Attorneys have training in identifying questioning techniques and methods of putting pressure on the suspect that police sometimes use, but that are a violation of the suspect’s constitutional rights. If your attorney is present during questioning, they can advise you on how best to answer questions, and they can recognize when the police are overstepping their constitutional bounds.
A line-up is a method that police will sometimes use to get a witness to a crime to positively identify the perpetrator of the crime. They line up several inmates, one of which is usually the prime suspect of the police. The police then ask the witness to pick the perpetrator out of the line-up.
There are certain methods that police can use to draw the witness’s eye toward one particular suspect, by making that person stand out from the rest of the members of the line-up. However, these techniques are often unconstitutional. If your attorney is present during your line-up, they will be able to force the police to set up the line-up in a neutral and balanced way, so as not to violate your rights.
There is no way to guarantee the outcome of a criminal trial. However, consulting with an attorney early on in the process, and having them present whenever possible, can dramatically increase your chances of obtaining a favorable verdict in your trial.