Email or Call (215) 564-0644

    Invoking the Right to Remain Silent in a Pennsylvania Murder Case

    From a criminal defense standpoint, murder suspects in Pennsylvania should ALWAYS exercise their right to remain silent. After all, police officers and detectives in murder cases are specially trained to interrogate suspects and get confessions, whether they are true or false.

    Police interrogation tactics are almost always psychological, mental and emotional. It’s not uncommon for a detective who is interrogating a murder suspect to bring up the suspect’s family or parents, or a detective may discuss principles of respect and responsibility. Interrogators often try to appear like they are trying to help or protect the suspect, when the truth is that anything the suspect admits to will be used against them later.

    In addition, interrogations in major cases, like murders or homicides, are geared to drag on. A suspect may spend hours being interrogated. So naturally, suspects get mentally and emotionally fatigued as time goes on. For the average person, such interrogations are overwhelming and frightening. For suspects with intellectual or mental disabilities, these interrogations are downright terrifying.

    Related: Common Philadelphia Criminal Cases: Murder Charges and Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act Charges

    Pennsylvania Murder Suspects Should Remain Silent During Interrogations

    Before a custodial interrogation begins, law enforcement is legally required to inform the suspect that they have constitutional rights to remain silent and to an attorney. Again, it’s crucial for a suspect to invoke their constitutional rights, for two main reasons.

    First, there’s the risk of a false confession or the risk of confessing to other, unrelated crimes. It’s not uncommon for a murder suspect to confess to having committed other crimes in order to get out of the hot seat. For example, a Philadelphia resident is brought in for questioning in a major homicide case. Rather than invoke their right to remain silent, the individual speaks to detectives. He denies the murder, but after hours of questioning, he volunteers that he committed a robbery and where he’s hidden the gun used in the robbery. Assuming he’s innocent of murder, he will probably face robbery charges.

    Second, there’s the risk that critical evidence will be found and seized as a result of admissions made during a confession. For example, a murder suspect is questioned about a shooting death. Rather than remain silent, she agrees to talk to detectives. Eventually, she admits to the crime and even tells officers where she hid the gun used in the shooting. Officers retrieve the gun, find her fingerprints on it, and match it to the bullets retrieved from the victim. All this evidence will be used against her to either get her to plead guilty or get a jury or judge to find her guilty after a trial.

    The reality is that nothing a suspect admits to during an interrogation in a murder case is going to help their own case. Rather, it’s the opposite. Any criminal admissions made during an investigation will only help law enforcement conduct their investigation and ultimately get a conviction.

    An Affirmative Statement is Required – Silence is NOT Enough

    In order to invoke the right to remain silent, a suspect has to say something affirmative. And it’s got to be clear or unequivocal. Simply not talking or remaining silent isn’t enough. Rather, a suspect must say something that a reasonable person would understand to mean that they don’t want to speak to detectives. Saying “I don’t know if I should talk to you.” isn’t enough. On the other hand, saying “I am through talking to you.” or “I want a lawyer before I talk to you.” would be enough.

    In a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court case, Commonwealth v. Lukach (Oct. 2018), the court held in favor of the defendant on the issue of whether he had invoked his right to remain silent and as a result, whether the police officer’s subsequent questioning and recovery of evidence uncovered during the questioning were illegal.

    During a murder investigation, defendant Lukach was identified as a possible suspect. He was arrested on two unrelated warrants. He was then read his Miranda rights and questioned about the murder by the chief of the local police department. Lukach initially denied involvement in the murder. Approximately 30 minutes later, the chief started discussing Lukach’s mother, at which point, Lukach stated, “Yeah. I don’t know just, I’m done talking. I don’t have nothing to talk about.” The chief continued questioning him and over the course of the next hour, Lukach confessed to the murders and also gave up the location of critical evidence tying him to the murder, the victim’s credit card and personal belongings.

    The trial court granted Lukach’s motion to suppress his statement and any evidence obtained as a result of the interrogation. The prosecution appealed and lost. It appealed again to the PA Supreme Court which upheld the lower courts’ rulings.

    For more info, visit the Pennsylvania Murder Charge Law Library.

    Philadelphia Criminal Law Firm – Murder & Homicide Cases

    Our law firm handles murder cases across the Philadelphia area. David S. Nenner has over 30 years of experience handling serious criminal matters and is available for a free consultation. 215.564.0644

    David S. Nenner

    "Top Rated Criminal Defense Lawyer"

    MURDER, Att. Murder CHARGES – Negotiated Significantly Lower prison sentence (Feb. 2022, PHILA)

    Mr. Anderson faced murder and attempted murder charges after an incident in Northeast Philadelphia involving the shooting death of Anderson’s sister’s boyfriend and the boyfriend’s roommate who was shot 5 times and survived. The decedent had previously beaten the...


    The Commonwealth alleged that Mr. Shelton shot and seriously injured a male in a bar in North Philadelphia called Circles. There was video of the shooting which happened outside the bar. However, Mr. Nenner presented witnesses who testified that the person in the bar...


    Mr. Nenner's client was charged with multiple crimes (murder, conspiracy, aggravated assault, robbery, etc.) after a shooting death occurred at a gambling house in North Philadelphia. At trial, Mr. Nenner successfully presented a self-defense argument and convinced...


    Mr. Nenner’s client was charged with murder and gun charges in Philadelphia. The client was accused of shooting and killing another male on Arch Street near the 5600 block of Ithan Street in Philadelphia. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty after deliberating...

    Drug Possession Case – Motion to Suppress Granted

    Mr. Nenner presented evidence that to show that the traffic stop was a pretextual stop. The officer had no reason to pull the car over. The judge agreed and suppressed the evidence. As a result, the prosecution withdrew the charges.

    Sentencing for 1st Degree Murder in PA

    In this article below we discuss sentencing for 1st degree murder cases in Pennsylvania. In later articles, we will discuss sentencing for 2nd and 3rd degree murder cases. If you or a loved one is facing murder charges in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties,...

    Philadelphia Criminal Trials – Evidence Pointing to Another Perpetrator in Drug Possession or Drug Manufacture Cases

    In criminal trials in Philadelphia, one pretty common defense tactic is pointing the finger at another person at trial. This can raise enough doubt to result in a not guilty verdict by the judge or jury that the defendant was not the perpetrator of the crime. Here’s...

    Philadelphia Murder & Gun Possession Cases Increasing in 2021 – A Look at Common Charges & Defenses

    A look at PA criminal law for Murder (1st, 2nd, 3rd Degree), Aggravated Assault, Robbery, Possession of a Firearm, Carrying a Firearm Without a License, Carrying a Firearm in Philadelphia (misdemeanor).

    Pennsylvania Murder Charges, Deceased Person’s Statements Used to Prove Guilt

    Defense Trial Strategies – Excluding Statements That Accuse the Defendant Prosecutors often look to a deceased individual’s statements made prior to a murder to show that the defendant is guilty. These statements may point to a history of violence between the deceased...

    Pennsylvania (State) Drug Charges, Dog Sniffs & Constitutional Law

    Federal and Pennsylvania state courts treat narcotics dog searches differently. So different that the same scenario could result in different outcomes in federal versus state court. For example, a Philadelphia resident is pulled over for speeding. During the traffic...