Right to Remain Silent
Most people are familiar with Miranda warnings from TV police procedurals and movies: you have the right to remain silent, any statement you make may be used against you, and you have the right to an attorney. In practice however, many people don’t invoke their right to silence or to an attorney. They may think that refusing to speak to police makes them look guilty, or simply wish to assist law enforcement with their investigations. Additionally, police are allowed to lie about the evidence against you, and can withhold information that, if revealed, might cause the interviewee to invoke their right to remain silent. Thus, speaking to the police without an attorney creates a very real risk that a person, even an innocent person, may unwittingly make incriminating statements to police.
The recent news coverage of the October 2021 shooting on the “Rust” film illustrates this point. Alec Baldwin, a wealthy, A-list celebrity, presumably with access to world-class lawyers, waived his Miranda rights and spoke to police without an attorney just hours after the gun he was holding discharged, killing one person, and injuring another. Baldwin’s response makes sense – he had just witnessed a terrible accident, and he wanted to help police understand what happened. For approximately one hour Baldwin spoke to police without an attorney present, describing details of the incident and on set gun protocols. He was not informed until the end of the interview that one of the victims had died. With involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin announced just last week, it isn’t yet clear what, if any, role Baldwin’s statement will play in the prosecutor’s case. However, the admissions he made during his police interview will likely foreclose defense strategies that may have otherwise been available to his attorneys.