Will Your Statements be Suppressed?
The Right to Remain Silent
In criminal prosecutions like drug cases in Philadelphia, the accused individual has the right to remain silent. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides, “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…”Also see the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 9, which states that a Pennsylvania citizen cannot “be compelled to give evidence against himself.”
Federal law mandates that individuals arrested in this country be read Miranda warnings after being arrested. The idea behind Miranda warnings is to give citizens notice about their rights and more importantly, notice of the right to remain silent.
In some drug cases, when and how Miranda warnings were given will become an issue in a subsequent suppression hearing. It is important to note that criminal law is very complex and whether an arrested individual’s statements can be used against him will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case.
Miranda Warnings in Drug Cases
In general, Miranda warnings come into play when 1. an individual is arrested or otherwise placed into custody and 2. a police officer conducts interrogation, or asks questions about facts related to the case.
In drug cases in Pennsylvania state and federal courts, prosecutors often prove possession by using the arrested individual’s statements against them. Therefore, it is important to understand how statements are obtained and used against individuals and how such statements can be suppressed or otherwise thrown out of the case. In many drug cases, suppressing statements or evidence can result in dismissal of the case.
In drug investigations, especially larger scale investigations, police will use informants and/or other tactics to obtain evidence necessary to convict. Drug arrests also occur after a police officer “observes a hand to hand transaction,” i.e., drug dealing. Whether a drug arrest occurs after months of police investigation or on the street, there are different ways that statements of those arrested are obtained, such as:
- post-arrest, before Miranda; and
- post-arrest, after Miranda.
If you have questions about a specific case, please call our Philadelphia criminal lawyers for a FREE initial consultation. (215) 564-0644
Pre-Arrest Statements in Drug Cases
If an individual is not arrested or not in custody, his statements will generally be admissible and therefore used against him. To illustrate: A Philadelphia police officer is patrolling a neighborhood known for drug use and dealing. He sees two individuals on the street corner, near an alley. According to the police officer’s police report, he sees suspicious behavior, one of the individuals is holding money and looking over his shoulder, and the other is pulling a small item from his pocket. The police officer has parked and gotten out of his patrol car, at which point, he walks up and asks them what they are doing. The individual holding drugs blurts out, “It’s just weed.” The officer arrests both individuals.
Here, the statement “It’s just weed,” will be used against the individual to prove possession, knowledge and control in a subsequent PA state court Possession with Intent to Deliver criminal case. Because the statement was made prior to arrest or custody and was voluntarily i.e., the individual blurted it out before he’d even been arrested or taken into legal custody, the statement will not likely be suppressed absent additional information and facts.
Click here for part 2 this article which will discusses post-arrest statements and Miranda warnings in drug cases.
Philadelphia Drug Charge Lawyer – FREE CONSULTATIONS
If you or a loved one was arrested for a drug related charge in the Philadelphia area or in federal court, and want to know if you have a valid suppression issue, please call our criminal lawyers for a free consultation. (215) 564-0644
David Nenner is an experienced criminal lawyer who has handled many drug cases in both Pennsylvania state and federal court. He offers a free phone consultation for all drug and gun cases.
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