Myths About Criminal Charges in Florida

TV shows and movies about law enforcement, the courts, and defense lawyers make great entertainment, but they often leave viewers with the wrong ideas about how the criminal justice system really works.  


Of course, it’s not the job of TV and films to educate people. But as experienced, certified criminal defense lawyers in Tampa, we must expose some of the myths that people wrongly believe about the law. At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we want our clients to be fully informed about important aspects of the law. 



Myths About Florida Criminal Charges 


You Can’t Be Convicted If the Police Don’t Read You the Miranda Rights (False) 


The famous Miranda rights are familiar to almost everyone from watching TV and movies. The law does not require the police to read Miranda warnings to every person who is being arrested. The law only requires the police to inform a person who is in their custody of their Miranda rights if the police want the arrestee’s statements to be admissible against them in court. If the police don’t want to question the person they arrested, they don’t need to advise them of their Miranda warnings. And the police may question an arrestee without giving them their Miranda warnings if the police don’t intend to use the person’s statements against them in court.  


Learn More > Miranda Rights: What Television Doesn’t Tell You  


The Police Are Not Allowed to Lie to You (False) 


Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Florida have ruled that the police may use verbal deception when interrogating a criminal suspect, as long as the deception doesn’t go so far as to overwhelm the suspect’s free will. For example, if two people are arrested on suspicion of robbery, the police are allowed to tell one suspect that the other one pointed the finger of guilt at them. This tactic can persuade the first suspect that the second one betrayed them, freeing the first suspect to confess.  


But there is a limit to how much deception the police can use. They cannot draw up fake documents to show the suspect that science implicates them in the crime or lie about the suspect’s statements being “off the record” or that the prosecution won’t use them in court. 


Undercover Police Must Identify Themselves as Cops If You Ask Them (False) 


One of the most successful policing tactics is to infiltrate a group of people by pretending to be committing a crime, like dealing drugs, or bribing public officials. Unlike on TV, when a drug dealer asks a buyer if they are a police officer, the undercover officer does not have to say, “Yes, I am.” The officer is legally entitled to maintain their undercover persona. To do otherwise would not only defeat the purpose of every undercover criminal investigation, but it would also risk the officer’s injury or death. Just as we explained in the previous myth, the police can lie in many situations. 


It’s Always Entrapment if an Undercover Cop Asks Me to Do Something Illegal (False)  


Everyone has seen movies and detective shows in which the police conduct a “sting” operation. It may be that the police pose as drug buyers, and they arrange to buy a large quantity of drugs from drug traffickers. This and similar situations are not necessarily unlawful entrapment. 


Entrapment is when a law enforcement agent or cooperating witness “coerces, persuades, or induces” someone who is not otherwise predisposed to commit a crime to do something illegal. To obtain a dismissal of a criminal charge with an entrapment defense, the evidence must show that the defendant  


You Can’t Be Convicted of Domestic Violence If Your Spouse/Lover Doesn’t Press Charges (False) 


Police and prosecutors often file domestic violence battery charges and then find that the alleged victim does not want to prosecute or testify against the defendant. Whether out of love, fear the spouse or lover will lose their job or fear of more violence, many victims hesitate to follow through with prosecutions. 


The law does not give the “complaining witness” in a domestic violence battery case the power to decide whether the defendant will be prosecuted. The state is entitled to prosecute the case even when the alleged victim refuses to testify. The prosecution can use what the law calls the “nontestimonial” out-of-court statements of the alleged victim. A non-testimonial statement is one that they did not make under circumstances that would produce evidence to be used in court.  


For example, a statement the alleged victim gave to an investigating police officer is a “testimonial” because their statements are likely to be used in court. Therefore, the statement cannot be admitted into evidence unless the defendant has an opportunity to cross-examine the person. But a recording of a 911 emergency call for help in which the alleged victim says, “help me, my spouse is beating me!” can be used as evidence because the statement was made for the purpose of being rescued, not to provide evidence for prosecution.  


Learn More > Defending Domestic Violence Cases 


The Police Have So Much Evidence Against You that You Don’t Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer (False) 


It does not matter how much evidence the police and prosecutors may have against a defendant, every person charged with any crime needs an experienced, skilled criminal defense lawyer. 


Merely because the police found illegal drugs or other contraband in your possession does not mean you are without defense. Even people who confess to crimes when interviewed by police have many solid defenses to the crime.  


A skilled criminal defense attorney is faced with these challenges every day. Every criminal defendant is entitled to have their defense lawyer question the evidence, 


  • to determine whether the police had a “lawful” search warrant,  
  • to find out if their client’s confession was made voluntarily after a lawful arrest, and  
  • that their client was advised of, understood, and voluntarily waived their constitutional rights to remain silent and to the assistance of a lawyer before answering questions. 


Tampa Criminal Defense 


If you have been charged with a crime, don’t rely on the myths that you have heard on TV. Get experienced criminal defense counsel by calling Stechschulte Nell today. We are available 24/7 to take your call; 813-280-1244. 

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