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In Michigan, you are protected against involuntary statements

On Behalf of | Nov 21, 2016 | Constitutional Rights |

Anyone who has watched a police crime drama on TV knows that you are given your Miranda rights before questioning. Two key things your Miranda warnings tell you are that you have the right to have an attorney and the right to remain silent.

If you’ve been arrested, you’re going to be frightened. You may feel that telling “your side of the story” will clear things up. The police will likely encourage you to do this, too. Bad idea. The officer’s job is to gather evidence against you. In almost every case, if you say anything, you will learn later that it could hurt you. It’s a fact: saying anything to the police on your own could make your courtroom experience far worse than if you said nothing. Simply remain silent, and say you want to talk to a lawyer. It’s your right.

Thankfully, if you have made a statement, a knowledgeable Michigan criminal defense lawyer will have a tool that may help your defense. It is called a Walker Hearing.

What is a Walker Hearing?

A Walker Hearing takes place before a judge. Its purpose is to decide if the evidence (what you said to the police) is admissible in court and can be used against you. The Walker Hearing came from a Michigan Supreme Court ruling in 1965 that allows a judge to decide if a statement made by a defendant to the police was fairly or unfairly obtained. This hearing is held with the prosecutor (for the police), possibly the officer, you, your defense lawyer and the judge. No jury is present.

In a 2007 decision, the Michigan Supreme Court found that it is “not just the use of a rubber hose” that police can use to force a statement that in reality is completely false. They may use tactics to “get you” to make a statement. Psychology, such as acting as if they are on your side, or holding back food and water are more common than most people think when police question a suspect. Here is how the 2007 case put it:

“In People v Walker, the Michigan Supreme Court held that when a defendant contends that statements that had been made were involuntary, the trial court must conduct a hearing outside the presence of the jury to determine the issue of voluntariness, at which the defendant may take the stand without waiving the right not to testify at trial. This right to a pretrial judicial determination of the voluntariness of a criminal defendant’s statement derives from the prohibition in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution against compelling a person in a criminal case to be a witness against himself…”

Before any actual trial, Michigan prosecutors must show with a “preponderance” (this means a clear majority) of evidence that statements made by the defendant were voluntary and of your own free will. Also, if you are in custody, you must have received a proper Miranda warning reminding you of your right to remain silent and to have a lawyer with you when you talk to the police. If not, your lawyer may be able to keep your statement from being used against you.

If you have been arrested and believe statements you made were coerced or forced, contact an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer. A knowledgeable criminal attorneys are better equipped to develop complicated defense strategies such as the use of a Walker Hearing.