In a recent unpublished opinion from the Nevada Supreme Court, the highest court in Nevada reminds us all of the importance of two things:
- It is SUPER important to contact a knowledgeable and skilled criminal defense attorney if you are even remotely suspected of committing a crime; and
- You MUST somehow inform the police that you are invoking your right to remain silent in order for your words or conduct to not be used against you in a court of law.
In State of Nevada v. Harris (May 8, 2017), the defendant was under investigation for the death of her 14-month-old baby. Apparently, before being formally arrested and charged with first-degree murder, the defendant spoke to an attorney who advised her not to appear at an already scheduled police interview and Child Protective Services (CPS) interview. Although the attorney’s advice to not appear was correct, the lawyer should have either advised her to tell the police and CPS that she was invoking her right to remain silent and therefore would not appear at the interviews OR if the attorney was actually retained by the defendant, the attorney should have sent a letter advising the police and CPS that the defendant was invoking her right to remain silent and would therefore not appear.
Because the defendant did not actually tell the police and CPS that she was not going to the interviews because she was invoking her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, the Nevada Supreme Court held that she did not invoke her right to remain silent. Consequently, because she did not invoke her right, at trial, the prosecutor could point out to the jury and comment on the fact that the defendant failed to appear at her scheduled police and CPS interviews. Unfortunately, when a jury hears that a defendant did not “cooperate” or speak to the police, it is common for a jury to infer that the defendant must be guilty or why else would she not speak to the police and/or CPS? The chances of winning a criminal case can be destroyed by this simple and avoidable mistake. If the defendant, or the lawyer she spoke to, would have notified the police and CPS that she was invoking her right to remain silent, the prosecutor would not have been allowed to present that evidence to the jury.
If you think the police or CPS suspect you of a crime, please don’t gamble with the rest of your life. Contact us immediately to get proper legal advice and the best defense possible!