Month: August 2014

Can Police Lie?

We’ve all seen or heard the rumor: if you ask a police officer if they are a police officer, they have to tell you. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is, police can, and often do, lie. They can lie about being undercover. They can also lie about anything.

Why Can Police Lie? Efficiency. After all, a police officer wouldn’t be able to do their job very well if they had to just recite actual facts to suspects. For example, let’s assume there are two suspects who are arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking. And, let’s also assume they were actually transporting illicit substances, but the police don’t have any concrete evidence. So, they tell one suspect that his cohort just sold him up the river, confessed to everything, maybe even some extra stuff too just to get them to deny some crimes but admit to other crimes, and that person in turn admits to everything. In an instant, an otherwise evidence-less case is looking significantly stronger. Put simply: the easiest and best way for police to get real, concrete evidence is to manufacture a story and sell it to a suspect.

What Can Police Lie About? Almost anything. A better way to put it is more like they can lie about nearly anything related to the crime, and some things that are not closely related to the crime to a certain degree, depending on the facts and circumstances of the specific case. However, that’s a lot to remember. The take away here is the police can lie about practically anything. Here are some common scenarios where a lie from a police officer tends to dupe those who don’t know better. 1. False Confessions: As mentioned above, it’s pretty common for cops to mince words and put one person against another. They expect emotions to run high, and for the other person to automatically implicate the other, and in doing so, implicate themselves. It sounds ludicrous, but it works surprisingly well. 2. Better Sentence: Cops may also insist that by cooperating a suspect will get a better sentence or may not even wind up being charged at all. Let’s clear up some air about that – the police probably know better than to promise a better sentence, because they have been trained to know that would be illegal (more about that later on). More importantly, the police have absolutely no power to charge anyone (that’s up the district attorney), and they certainly have no final say in what sentence someone receives (that’s up to the judge). The police simply enforce the law and make arrests when the law is broken, and believe me, they are good at that. 3. Other Suspects: It is not uncommon for law enforcement to insist that a person who is a suspect is not the only suspect, or not a suspect at all, and that this conversation is simply to help them figure out the whereabouts of the “real bad guys.” Again, police enforce the law and arrest people, and someone who is being interrogated or questioned by the police wouldn’t be unless they were at least suspected of one thing or another. 4. “Off the Record”: First of all, this may not technically be a lie because there is no “record.” A record isn’t exactly officially created until the questioning is done under oath. Which, even if a police officer turns off a tape recorder and video camera, is absolutely what they will do after they are arrested and they are called in to testify at the defendant’s preliminary hearing: give statements under oath. Are There Any Limits? Fortunately, yes. Unfortunately, they are vague and narrow. Without getting into the legal definitions of how far is too far, the main consideration is whether or not a lie or series of lies was coercive. In other words, if a police officer makes definitive assurances, or anything leaning towards beneficial treatment or situations unrelated to the crime itself, the lie may have gone too far and the confession will be no good.

If I’m Innocent, I Have Nothing to Worry About. Right? This perhaps the biggest lie of all. Innocent people wind up confessing to things they did not do all the time. Moreover, even if an innocent person doesn’t confess to a crime, it’s remarkably easy to implicate yourself, even if you are completely without fault. For example, a tall man fits a description of a bank robber, is arrested and questioned, and because he knows he is innocent, he tells the truth and admits to being in the bank, near the time of the robbery. He doesn’t need to admit to committing the crime to have already established more than enough probable cause – with perfectly innocent, legal behavior – to charge him. His situation starts to look worse if he starts to answer questions about his financial troubles, all in the name of being innocent and wanting to cooperate. Remember – memory is not 100%. It isn’t uncommon for a blue shirt one day to become a yellow shirt another day; if someone is completely innocent buys into a law enforcement lie about “being innocent means nothing to hide” or “off the record, help us out with other suspects,” gives some information, and is later called in for more questioning or to testify and gives different statements, that innocent person is looking a lot like a guilty suspect.

What’s the Right Thing to Do? Always tell the truth, even if the cops don’t. Ultimately, the specific “right thing to do” depends on many, many more factors than lying cops. However, at the end of the day, being honest is never a quality that makes a person look bad. But in addition to telling the truth, it’s important for people to know their rights. It’s not against the law or being uncooperative to politely tell a police officer that their questions feel accusatory, irrelevant, or are just uncomfortable. From there, it’s usually best practice for a person being questioned to ask if they are a suspect and under arrest. Depending on the answer to those questions, we shouldn’t be afraid to tell law enforcement that if they are going to ask anymore questions, or make anymore statements (truthful or not) they will have to do so to a lawyer.

Remember if an officer has asked you to come and meet with him to talk we at Stevens & Gailey, P.C. will be there during the interview to protect your rights.  Just give us a call.

Illegal Prescription Drug Abuse

Many people worry about the damage done by illegal drugs, however more and more legal prescription drugs can be just as dangerous.

According to a new FindLaw.com survey, a surprising one in four Americans admitted to abusing prescription drugs. “Abuse” in this case includes using the drug other than for its intended use, or use by someone other than the person on the prescription.

With startling revelations like these about the insidious nature of prescription drug abuse, what can consumers do to legally protect themselves?

Know the Legal Risks of Abuse

Whether you’re using prescription drugs to self-medicate, or if someone else is making use of your leftover drugs, be aware of these potential legal consequences:

  • Prescription drug-related DUI. Even if you’re taking prescription drugs for their intended purposes, you can be pulled over and charged for a DUI while under their influence. A cop will not be impressed by you telling him that you “only” took two Xanax before getting behind the wheel. If you’re driving impaired while taking prescription drugs, you can be arrested.
  • An arrest for buying/selling Rx drugs without a prescription. If you decide to sell a half-full leftover bottle of Oxycontin to your neighbor, you’re essentiallycommitting a federal and state drug crime. That includes buying or selling your pills online.
  • Liablity for overdose deaths. If you illegally share or sell your prescription drugs with others, you may be held liable if the recipients overdose and die.

According to FindLaw.com’s survey, up to 24 percent of Americans admit to taking medicine that was prescribed to someone else or giving their own meds away. That may open one-fourth of Americans to serious legal consequences.

Properly Dispose of Your Rx Meds

Instead of illegally selling or giving away your prescription drugs to a friend or stranger, dispose of them legally. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency holds National Take-Back Day events where you can drop off leftover prescription drugs to be properly disposed at listed collection sites.

The Food and Drug Administration also has compiled a list of drugs you can flush, while many others can be simply thrown in the garbage after being mixed-in with kitty litter or coffee grounds.

Don’t contribute to the recent statistics in drug abuse, protect your health and legal wellbeing by being smart about prescription drugs.  Contact the attorneys at Stevens & Gailey, P.C.  we are ready to answer your concerns.

In-Kind Child Support Payments

In-Kind Child Support Payments

One question that comes up every now and then is whether a child support payor is entitled to a credit against their child support and/or alimony obligations for “in-kind” goods and services they have provided to their ex. For example, if instead of writing their ex a $500 check for child support they instead agree to pay their ex’s mortgage, utility bill, or all their children’s medical bills.

The answer depends on whether there is a support order in place yet or not. If there is, you must strictly comply with that order and usually are not entitled to any credit for “in-kind” goods or services you provide. But, if no order is in place, then you may be entitled to a credit for any “in-kind” support you can prove that you provided.

In Knudson v. Utah State Dept. of Social Serv., 660 P.2d 258 (Utah 1983), the Utah Supreme Court held that a divorced father was entitled to a credit against child support for voluntarily paying his ex’s wife mortgage payment during the pendency of their divorce. There was no child support in place at the time. The Court explained that:

In-Kind Child Support Payments

“Obligors commonly fulfill their support obligations by a variety of means, including services or commodities in kind. While it may be administratively difficult to ascertain the value of such support in some cases, as the Department argues, we think reality and fairness and even sound administration demand it. As concerns the Public Support of Children Act, the Department of Social Services should shape its administration to measure the reality of parental support, rather than attempt to reshape reality to serve its administration. The measure of the obligor’s credit should be the value of what he has furnished. … Because the admitted value of the housing already provided by appellant (over $1,500) is well in excess of the amount of reimbursement ordered by the Department ($729), we resolve this case without remanding for another proceeding by holding as a matter of law that the Department was not entitled to any reimbursement from the appellant.”

Conversely, in Ross v. Ross, 592 P.2d 600, 603-604 (Utah 1979), the Utah Supreme Court rejectedan obligor’s request for a credit for in-kind goods and services he had been providing to his ex. A child support order was already in place at the time. The Court wrote that:

“Plaintiff next contends that from the time of the divorce to the time this action was brought he made certain voluntary expenditures in behalf of defendant and the children and should be given credit for such payments against the alimony and support arrearages. Plaintiff is not entitled, however to credit for expenditures made on behalf of the children or defendant which do not specifically conform to the terms of the decree. To do so would permit plaintiff to vary the terms of the decree and to usurp from defendant the right to determine the manner in which the money should be spent. Only if the defendant has consented to the plaintiff’s voluntary expenditures as an alternative manner of satisfying his alimony and child support obligation, can plaintiff receive credit for such expenditures.”

The distinction between these two cases was whether a child support order was already in place. The Knudson court explained that when no court or administrative order is in place an obligor can seek a credit for in-kind services provided to the support obligee.

Here is an example of when this rule could come in handy. Suppose you have an unmarried couple who have a child together. The parents do not live together, but the father ensures the child never goes without. He always pays the mother’s rent, buys her groceries and diapers, and pays for all the child’s medical and daycare expenses without asking the mother to reimburse him a penny. Then, one day the parents have a falling out and the mother files suit demanding 4-years worth of retroactive child support (which she is entitled to do under Utah law). The “in-kind” contribution rule would be a saving grace to a father under such circumstances provided he could show that he had in fact been supporting his child all along.

In-Kind Child Support Payments

I was arrested for DUI in Utah, but the Cops never read me my Miranda rights!

I was arrested for DUI in Utah, but the Cops never read me my Miranda rights!

The Constitution should apply to all equally.  A person accused of murder has the exact same rights as someone accused of writing a bad check.  This is the way it is supposed to work, but in the real world, it doesn’t.  In fact, the Utah Courts and the Utah legislature have continuously found ways to limit the rights of the citizens accused of DUI in Utah.  Here is the reality:

  • If you are arrested for DUI, the officer will immediately seize your license.  No judge, no jury, and you are presumed guilty before anyone hears the facts of your case.
  • You can contest your Drivers License Suspension, and if you win the administrative hearing, you can still lose it in the Criminal Proceedings.  Double jeopardy does not apply.
  • The officer will not read you Miranda warnings until after he has done his investigation, and he may never read them even after you are arrested.
  • You do not have a right to an attorney before you give evidence against yourself.  In fact, in Utah, you have no right to an attorney when you are deciding to take a chemical test.
  • Normally, if you remain silent, the jury cannot hear evidence of you exercising your right to remain silent.  However, if you refuse a chemical test, there is a Utah statute that specifically allows the evidence of you refusing to be presented to the jury.
  • Officers are required to have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime in order to pull you over.  However, in a DUI check point, officers can pull you over for no reason and check to see if you have been drinking.
  • Normally, if the government destroys evidence, the evidence cannot be used against.  In a Utah DUI situation, you have no right to retest the chemical evidence against you.