“Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus…”
No, not really. But I always loved that line from the 1994 blockbuster film, “Speed,” starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, and Dennis Hopper. In the movie (spoiler alert), Howard Payne, a disgruntled explosives expert now in retirement, plants bombs around Los Angeles, including one on the city bus Bullock’s character, Annie, was memorably forced to drive above 50 mph lest it should explode killing all of its passengers. In a chilling phone call, we hear Payne detail to S.W.A.T. member, Jack Traven, the gruesome scenario for this bombing, poignantly asking Jack as he concludes, “What do you do?”
It is a valid question. What do you do in a situation where there are multiple variables you cannot possibly control? Worse still, what if you are unfamiliar with how those variables can impact your freedom, your future, and in those worst-case scenarios, whether you live or die? In the blink of an eye and when you least expect it, you can find yourself in legal trouble and involved in just such a situation.
Take, for example, the following scenario. You hear a knock on your door. You answer, and two police officers inform you that your neighbor is dead and that you were the last person seen leaving his home two days earlier. They would like to question you. “Sure,” you say. After all, you did not murder your neighbor. Two days ago you were away on a fishing trip, alone. “Why shouldn’t you speak with them?”
So you invite the police into your home and allow them to question you. You are positive that by cooperating you have something to gain. Surely you will be rewarded for being the “good guy.” But did you ever hear the proverb, “No good deed goes unpunished”? I am here to tell you no good can come of speaking with the police without the presence of an attorney, despite your innocence. Here’s why.
Even though you did not murder your neighbor, you may make a statement that can incriminate you. If the police have come to question you, they already have some suspicion about your involvement and, likely, enough probable cause to arrest you before you even say a word. Your chance of dissuading them from arresting you, therefore, is small. However, the more you speak, the more opportunity you have for inadvertently creating further doubt in their minds as to your innocence and, down the road, potentially the minds of jurors. It is easy to make statements that can be disproven later, either because you forget details from your past or do not think a detail is relevant when it is.
If, on the other hand, you did murder your neighbor, are suddenly overcome with guilt, and want to confess, you still should not speak with the police without the presence of a lawyer. There are degrees to many crimes, not only murder, and the evidence you provide or do not provide can determine your charge as well as your punishment. The state is often more lenient with a defendant who cooperates than with one who does not. By immediately admitting guilt to the police, you are in essence making the Government’s case for it, losing your bargaining power in the process.
If you find yourself implicated in a criminal situation, it is important to seek legal counsel as quickly as possible. Those early stages of an investigation can determine the level of your involvement and eventually your sentencing. A skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced criminal attorney will assess your case and advise you exactly how to proceed, thereby minimizing your exposure, and increasing your chances of passing that pop quiz with flying colors. Now I ask you, “What do you do?”
Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer and Personal Injury Attorney with offices in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Morgantown West Virginia. Attorney Walker is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense, Super Lawyers and qualified as a Pennsylvania Death Penalty Defense Attorney.
If you or someone you love are facing criminal charges or seriously injured in an accident in WV or PA, contact Attorney Frank Walker immediately at 412-532-6805, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for aggressive and experienced Criminal Defense or Representation following a serious accident or injury.