Whether due to pop culture, urban legend, false assumptions, or a host of other reasons, there are several myths about Florida criminal law that persist in the minds of many Floridians. What follows is a discussion of several of those myths and why they are false.
Myth: Your Rights Only Begin Upon Arrest
We’ve all heard a person “read his rights” on television and in movies, and this happens in real life, too. A person under arrest has the right to remain silent, a right against incriminating yourself, and the right to an attorney. However, an individual has those same rights that law enforcement must respect in interactions whether an arrest occurs or not. In addition, individuals also have a right for their person or property to be searched only after a magistrate has issued a search warrant. However, that right does not prevent police from searching your property if contraband is in plain sight.
Myth: I Don’t Need An Attorney If I Plead Guilty
Often people think that they don’t need legal assistance if they simply intend to plead guilty to a charge. This can be a mistake. You may still have several options available to you if you do not intend to defend yourself against a charge. Frequently a plea bargain can be made between an attorney and the prosecution allowing you to plead guilty to a lesser crime in exchange for a lesser sentence.
Myth: If The Police Can’t Find My DNA, They Can’t Convict Me Of A Crime
Several popular television shows depict the use of high-tech equipment and techniques to recover and identify the DNA of a suspect to convict them of a violent crime. In reality, DNA is typically not necessary to obtain a conviction of murder, rape, or assault and battery. The majority of these types of cases are determined by much simpler forms of evidence, like witness testimony and circumstantial evidence.
Myth: I Can’t Be Convicted Of DUI If My Blood Alcohol Content Is Below The Legal Limit
In very many cases an individual is convicted of DUI by the use of either a Breathalyzer or via blood testing at another location. Despite how commonplace the evidence of blood alcohol content is used by the prosecutor to obtain a conviction, simply proving to the court or jury that you were impaired at all by alcohol or drugs is also sufficient grounds for a conviction of DUI.
Myth: Law Enforcement May Only Testify About My Comments Made After Arrest
It is true that post-arrest statements may be used by law enforcement against you in a criminal prosecution, but that is not where it begins to be important what you say to a police officer. Many times an officer will try to engage a suspect in small talk before the arrest, and comments the suspect makes in that conversation may also be introduced in court and used to gain a conviction.
Myth: Police Must Identify Themselves As Such If Asked
A persistent myth holds that an undercover or otherwise out-of-uniform police officer must tell the truth when they are asked if they are cops. Quite to the contrary, the United States Supreme Court has held on several occasions that police may lie to suspects if they wish, and doing so does not constitute entrapment.