Interviewer: What are other ways that people unintentionally incriminate themselves during their case, before their case, before they even get arrested, and after they get arrested?
Brian Geno: The worst way that people incriminate themselves is by talking to police. People may know that they shouldn’t talk to police But what they’re thinking is that they shouldn’t talk to police about things that they think matter. Actually, they shouldn’t talk to police at all, because they don’t know what matters. Police are professional who have been learning ways to prove common criminal and traffic cases every week. They have thought it through and know how to draw things out. What you think does not matter may be all that is needed for the government to prove its case.
This is a perfect example: A person is stopped. The police officer says, “I smell marijuana,” and the person remains quiet. A few minutes later, the police officer says, “Is this your car?” The person says, “Yes,” and then the officer says, “Is this your backpack,” and the person says, “Yes.” Up to now, they think nothing that has been said matters, and then the officer opens up the backpack and finds a little bit of marijuana, and able to make an argument that the person who got stopped exercised exclusive control over everything in his backpack simply because they owned up to the backpack. That’s a perfect example of someone saying what they think was okay but not realizing that the rule they needed was to not incriminate themselves by not talking.
Choosing to Perform The Field Sobriety Test is Not Advisable
Another one is that they’ll choose to do field sobriety tests when arrested for DUI. They don’t have to do field sobriety tests, but they choose to do them anyway. When I say that, I’m not talking about the breath test, which is done at the police station in Virginia. The breath test is a scientific test of your blood alcohol. I’m talking about when the police officer asks you to get out of your car and walk a straight line and put your finger to your nose and say the alphabet, or raise one leg off the ground and hold it there. Those are all a form of self-incrimination, which you do not have to do for the police. They’ll make you think you do, but you don’t. The fact that they make you think that you have to do it is another one of those misconceptions. Are police allowed to lie when investigating a crime? Incidentally, they can lie and they can mislead you. It’s clearly misleading somebody by letting them think that they have to do those tests. Once they are done, the person likely has incriminated themselves by giving the police the best evidence that is used against them when they go to court.
Interviewer: What’s the mindset of people when you meet with them during the first time, from their initial consultation throughout the course of the time that they’re going to be working with you? What’s generally their mindset? Are they scared? Are they worried at all?
Brian Geno: When people are stopped, usually they are scared, and they can’t believe it’s happening to them. There’s a lot of embarrassment and shame that they feel, and certainly they don’t know what’s going to happen. They think it’s going to involve money. It might involve jail. It might involve the loss of a driver’s license. Then they start to fear all kinds of unreasonable things, as if the world is going to come to an end. “I’m going to lose my job. I’m going to lose relationships.” People are afraid about what their spouse will think. There’s a whole host of little things that people worry about. It behooves them to go seek out counsel as quickly as possible, because a good lawyer will explain the real substance of what a person is facing.
After hearing about the case during one or more consultations, they will have a true picture of their prospects and options. If the results do look horrible, they’ll know it, but if the results are not horrible but merely unfounded worries then they’ll know that too. They will leave my office with their head held a little higher. There’s a little bit less weight on their shoulders, and they are much more comfortable with what’s coming. You don’t lose sleep as much when you know that on the day of court you’re going to have a trial, you know how it’s going to work, and you know what’s going to be asked of you, and you’re going to know what you should wear, where you should sit, who you should talk to, who you shouldn’t talk to. You know all those things in advance so that when you come to court, the familiarity gives you confidence.