Three dumb things people say to the police… all the time.

So, you’re sitting in my office and you’re mad that you got a ticket or were arrested for DUI or are charged with murder. You’re going to fight this thing all the way. You’re mad.  They never read your your rights.  They never showed you the radar.  If they didn’t do that, you must be “not” guilty, right?

For whatever reason, there seem to be a large number of people who, between the time they’ve last talked to the cops and the time they walk into my door, have convinced themselves they’re not guilty.  That’s just fine.  If you want to take the best shot at winning at trial, though, there are some things you probably said to the police that you shouldn’t have.  Those things are going to make it really hard for a judge or jury to see just how not guilty you really are

When the police first pulled you over or started to talk to you: “Yes”.

Do you know how fast you were going? “Yes.”  Do you know why we’re at your house with this warrant looking for a dead body? “Yes.” Do you have any idea why the neighbor says you were swimming naked in his pool at night and creeping out the entire neighborhood? “Yes.”

When the police ask those initial questions, they obviously know something. They’re not going to tell you what it is, but they’re going to try to get you to talk about it. After all, you may “know things only the killer would know.”  If you answer “yes” to any of these initial questions, it’s going to start a dialogue- a dialogue that’s only going to get harder to stop.

Probably the only worse answer than “yes” would be to lie.  Like, telling an officer at a traffic stop that you were going 47 when his radar says you were going 89.  Lies are either going to frustrate the officer or (in a more serious case) make you look even more guilty when you’re busted.

A better thing might be to say, “I’d like to talk to a lawyer before I answer any of your questions.”  Nobody seems to ever believe me on that, though. It’s sort-of a free country, I suppose.  You go ahead and do what you want.

When they want to search: “Yes”

When it comes to car searches, this is almost always a follow-up to “do you have anything you shouldn’t in the car?”  Of course, if that’s what happened you must have skipped the section above and either lied (hoping he’s not smart enough to know all the drugs are “hidden” in the trunk of your Chevy Vega), or answered “yes”.

So, now he wants to take a look. He’s asking you, and you don’t want to “look guilty” so you’re going to let him search.

Look, I know it seems a bit extreme, but no police officer is ever searching my car, house, body or other property with my consent. I have nothing to hide- just like you (except for those apples you’re illegally smuggling into Canada), but my stuff is nobody’s business and I don’t care how they think that makes me look.  I’d be somewhat offended if they even asked.

Getting sucked into “not wanting to look guilty” is the best way to look absolutely guilty. Nothing says “this guy is probably guilty” like the weed the cop found in your pocket or the headless corpse in your crawl space.

If they ever ask to search, you can always tell them you’d like to talk to a lawyer about it first. Just saying.

When the police are interrogating you: “Yes”

You’re in some small room at the police station. The room is simple, without decor or anything but a small table and some chairs.  There’s one cop- maybe two.  They’ve read you your rights, and they’re asking you questions.  They want to know how long you had “beef” with the guy who was just found stuffed in the back of a burned-out AMC Gremlin down by the river.  “You’ve hated this guy since before that day at the Bieber concert, right?” They ask.

Wait a minute. You’re in custody.  They read you your rights. They just told you that you had a right to an attorney.  They told you that they’d get you one before any questioning.

Now you’e sitting there, without having talked to a lawyer, and you’re about to agree that you didn’t like some guy that they found dead?

Brilliant idea, Einstein.  Especially if you didn’t kill the guy (or if you’re going to tell your lawyer you didn’t, anyway).

Just another crazy thought, but if you’re planning to contest the charges and try to avoid spending the rest of your life in prison, it might make sense to talk to a lawyer first. Probably.

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There you have it. You’re in my office. You want to fight this to the end. You’re mad that your rights have been violated. They can’t prove this case… except, of course, for the fact that you admit you knew why they were looking at you, let them search wherever they wanted and confessed after they read you your rights.

Can’t wait for your trial.

Dog Searches Are As Accurate as We Say They Are.

Anybody who has driven from the Geneva/St. Charles area west to DeKalb has seen the billboards for Bradley Olsen.  I see it all the time on my way to the various courthouses and, although I don’t know anything about Mr. Olsen or his disappearance, I do have a passing interest in the case.  No only for my own “I wonder what happened” curiosity, but also because “solving” missing persons cases is often messy and can lead to arrests based on compromised or not-very-reliable evidence.

If you don’t think so, read up on the Mario Casciaro case in McHenry County.  After several years of investigation the government struck a deal with a man (with a lengthy criminal history) who likely threw the death blow in order to convict another man (who, apparently, did not throw a fatal blow or have a similar history) on an “intimidation” theory.  The conviction has caused such a mess that 20/20 has been interviewing people and may be running a story on the case.

Anyhow, the Olsen case is back in the Kane County Chronicle because the investigation into his disappearance is entering its 7th year.  The police continue to follow up on leads and have done several searches when new evidence warrants it:

Police insist that Bradley Olsen’s disappearance is not a cold case. The active investigation involves K-9 searches about three to five times a year. Any time police receive a tip of someone saying they think Bradley Olsen was buried in a certain location or seen in another location, they check it out.
DeKalb police detective Lt. Bob Redel, now the lead investigator on the case, has been involved since the beginning. He believes Bradley Olsen is dead and wants to know how he might have died. There are many people of interest in the case, though Redel declined to specify how many there are and why they are designated as such.
“We need the right person to call us that either saw something or heard something that’s going to lead us to where Brad’s at,” Redel said.

Of course the “right person” is likely someone personally involved in Mr. Olsen’s disappearance who’s screwed up so bad in some other way that he’s willing to possibly incriminate himself on the Olsen case to walk on the new one.

That’s not the part that caught my eye, though.  The part that caught my eye was the comment about using canines to search, and about their accuracy:

In more recent years, police have not found evidence when dogs have searched different areas in the county. Sometimes a dog alerts police to something that may be a clue, but it turns out to be nothing.
“Dogs aren’t perfect,” Redel said.

I read the “sometimes a dog alerts police to something that may be a clue, but it turns out to be nothing.  Dogs aren’t perfect…” and chuckled. Why? Because it’s true. And honest. And likely something you’d never get a cop on the stand to admit to if you were cross examining him in a drug case.

Because, when it comes to dogs searching for drugs, humans, or other contraband in a criminal case, “there is no such thing as a false alert”:

(watch it until the end… seriously)

Nevertheless, hopefully Mr. Olsen’s family will have closure soon and the State’s Attorney’s Office, DeKalb and Maple Park police departments won’t have built a case on unreliable evidence.

An amazing “coincidence.” What are the odds?

What are the odds that the police would have an eye on a house because they think a burglar lives there?  That, while they’re keeping an eye on the house, some completely random person comes up and asks them to go into the house for a “well being” check?  That fire and rescue, along with the police, enter the house to find two people they say need medical assistance, but who don’t need it so bad they’re willing (or required) to go to the hospital?  That a subsequent search of the home (the cops are already in, so why not, right?) turned up not only the stolen items but the alleged burglar?  That all this happened on the same day in the same town at the same house?

What are the odds?

Pretty good if you take the Oswego Police department’s version of things.  From today’s Beacon News:

Well-being check leads to burglary arrest in Oswego

BY ERIKA WURST November 21, 2013 5:14PM

Updated: November 21, 2013 6:05PM

 An Oswego man is facing burglary charges this week after police allegedly found stolen items in his home during a well-being check on Sunday.
Police entered the home of Zachary Harmon, 21, 800 block of Columbus Drive, to conduct a well-being check, and during a search found items linked to a recent series of burglaries.
Oswego police took two reports from residents who reported having their vehicles broken into between 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday on Manhattan Circle.
A laptop computer, a phone, a radar detector and a GPS unit were allegedly taken during the burglaries, police said.
Police received a tip from one of the victims that the items might be located at a home in the 800 block of Columbus Drive. As police were watching the home, a woman showed up, concerned about the well being of someone inside, they said…

How lucky those officers must have been?  Clearly a case of being in the right place at the right time!  If that completely random woman hadn’t happened upon them (completely randomly, I’m sure) and possibly given them an exception to the 4th Amendment’s requirement to get a warrant before going into the home that was, coincidentally, I’m sure, the subject of their surveillance, they may never have been able to go in.  All pure luck, I’m sure!

Or, there’s more going on in this one than the Beacon News was lead to believe.  My money is on option #2.

It know it’s not that much of a concern to you, though.  The police had a hunch, they got their man.  You don’t care about his rights as long as he’s guilty.

I care about his rights. I care about your rights, too.  Mostly because his rights and your rights are my rights.  That’s really what I’m worried about.

So, I read this report and I’m concerned.  Let’s just say I don’t think it was all a coincidence.