The Fifth Amendment- A Right That Contradicts What My Mother Always Told Me

I can't count how many times my mother knelt to get eye level with the much younger me and said  "If you lie your punishment will be much worse than if you tell the truth."  We as children hopefully had parents who instilled in us the value to always tell the truth and that the "truth shall set you free."  For most parents, this is one of the most important lessons we teach our children and rightly so.  However, when does keeping your mouth shut cross the line to not telling the truth?  Is being silent the same as lying?  The Constitution says "no", however it seems our moral values say otherwise.  This quick blog post will discuss one of my favorite topics: The Fifth Amendment and how our values growing up can be used against us in a court of law.  This Amendment also happens to be my favorite comedian's, Dave Chappelle, favorite Amendment;  I Plead the "FIF"

The Fifth Amendment states, in a nutshell among other things, that you have the right to remain silent.  This means you do not have to answer any questions or give any statements and any defense attorney worth his salt will always recommend that a client never talk to police or give a statement, verbal or written, without the attorney present.  However, this is in theory and far from reality.  Many people charged with crimes come to their lawyers with one of two problems- they have talked to the authorities and lied about what happened or what they know or don't know; or they talked to the police before calling Thrower & Schwartz, and gave a complete statement admitting involvement or guilt.  In the majority of cases, neither is good.  It is always tough to think a client would have faired much better if he wouldn't have listened to the values instilled in him at a young age- to always tell the truth.  We want to know what happened, we want to know the truth about what happened, and most parents drill this into their children from a very young age.  

However, at what age does somebody need to be told that you shouldn't lie to your parents about the homework you did not complete or that you did not eat your broccoli and hid it in the napkin but you need to keep silent about something illegal you may have been involved in?  We tell adults constantly to never, ever talk to the police.  I've even written a blog post about what to do if the police try to talk to you here.  It's a dead horse that's been beaten to death on the internet, on YouTube, and every time I meet with a client who has given a statement before talking with us.  The reasons you shouldn't talk to the police when they ask you to come in for an interview or stop you on the street are numerous.  More times than not the police are NOT trying to clear your name as a suspect.  More times than not, if the police are contacting you it's because they already have information about you or your possible involvement.  Please understand, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO TALK YOUR WAY OUT OF IT!  The police are looking for more evidence to charge you and looking for you to trip up in your statement to drive the nail in your own coffin, so to speak.  Or, they don't have quite enough evidence to charge you and they are looking for something they can use as probable cause; in which case you are signing your own arrest warrant.  

Police detectives are good at what they do.  They interview and deal with people everyday.  They are masters of interrogation.  Some detectives have devoted their entire working career into breaking people down and getting statements. Police interrogation was even romanticized in one of my favorite TV shows of all time: The Wire.  One scene in particular shows Detective Bunk interviewing a young suspect who is clearly uneducated and very young.  His techniques can be watched here .  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that detectives use these exact techniques but it does highlight the process and how Bunk had nothing concrete on the young suspect yet uses his experience to get a statement.

You must remember, detectives are trained to extract statements and information, you are not trained to avoid giving statements.  Talking to a detective about a crime you may or may not be guilty of is like stepping into the ring with Mike Tyson and expecting to knock him out- good luck.  

So, back on track.  What I really wanted to talk about was the values my mother and father instilled in myself and why some suspects or defendants become helpless because of those values.  We grow up to trust the police, that they are there to help and that we should always tell the truth to one another, police included.  When telling our children to always tell the truth no matter what, we are implying that they should always speak when spoken to and to always tell the truth.  What we don't do is add a caveat into that value of "except when the police contact you."  

Obviously, there are times when our children may get hurt by speaking and telling the truth.  In an extreme example, imagine a child, Ryan, has just killed a man while defending himself.  The police are interrogating young Ryan, having themselves convinced Ryan actually committed murder.  Once Ryan starts speaking with detectives, answering their questions, unaware what the legal requirements of self-defense are, he most likely will talk himself right into an arrest and unfortunately a conviction for murder.  Even worse, he may understand the situation he is in and make up white lies about what happened to make it more favorable for him, changing key facts or evidence proved a lie by science or witnesses which contradict his own statement to police.  

Although there are times when telling the truth is the best thing to do, maybe its time to start teaching our children not to not tell the truth, but to just not say anything at all?        



Top Tips From Charleston DUI Lawyer Ryan Schwartz

Driving under the Influence, also known as DUI, is an offense that occurs when a driver operates a motorized vehicle (car, truck, boat, or motorcycle) with a breath alcohol content (BAC) level of .08% or higher or if the motorist is under the influence of alcohol, chemical or controlled substances to the extent that his normal abilities to operate a motor vehicle are impaired. A DUI in Charleston can even occur when a driver takes some types of medicines that affect how he operates a motor vehicle.

DUI First is charged as a misdemeanor, but in some instances, the accused driver may face felony charges. When a driver is charged with felony DUI, it may be due to previous DUI-related arrests and convictions. DUI can become a Felony DUI when an accused driver injures or kills someone in a DUI-related car accident. Felony DUI comes with serious fines as well as jail time.

Being charged or arrested with a DUI of any type is a serious situation that will demand much attention from a professional and knowledgeable DUI attorney. Thrower & Schwartz are prepared to take your case, be it a DUI 1st all the way to a Felony DUI. Many times a DUI case involves field sobriety tests, breath tests or blood tests. DUI cases can be highly technical with many legal requirements that an officer must follow in each and every DUI stop/arrest. It takes an experienced DUI lawyer to know all the ins and outs of the law and how to best use them to your advantage. Thrower & Schwartz will thoroughly investigate your case to make sure that the police property administered these tests by the rules and guide you through the process, making sure you understand both your rights and your options.

Our Goal is to pursue a complete dismissal of criminal charges when the client has been falsely arrested and accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Our firm strives to provide ethical and reliable representation to each of our clients. Attorneys Bill Thrower and Ryan Schwartz handle each case with the intensity and professionalism.

DUI convictions can lead to significant and damaging penalties that can haunt you later in life. Not only can you lose your license but you could face substantial fines, significant jail time, a criminal record and increased insurance rates or even lose your job. You must find a lawyer who you can trust to protect your best interest with a skilled defense and representation.

If you are facing a DUI charge in any of the Lowcountry areas such as Charleston, Goose Creek, Awendaw, Moncks Corner, Summerville or anywhere else in the Lowcounty then it is important to contact our office for a free DUI lawyer consultation and case evaluation so that we can closely examine your situation to see the best options for assisting you. Thrower & Schwartz have experience with everything from first time DUIs to multiple DUIs. A drunk driving charge can affect you and your family for years to come, it is important that you have an effective lawyer to defend your case.

The 3 Categories of South Carolina Drug Offenses / Crimes

Drug offenses are probably the most commonly prosecuted charges in the Lowcountry. A drug, per South Carolina law, is any substance classified in Schedules 1-V. Not all drug offenses are the same, however, and the punishment for different charges ranges from fines to lengthy prison sentences, depending on several factors. In South Carolina, drug charges are also enhanceable. This means that an accused may face harsher penalties if they are caught a second or more times with drugs. Depending on the prior history of an accused, charges can vary. Drug charges fall into three categories: Simple Possession, Manufacturing, Distribution and Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID) and trafficking.

Simple possession is not always so simple. Being in possession of a quantity of a substance listed in one of the Schedules I-V without a valid prescription is a crime in South Carolina. A crime of simple possession carries a penalty of up to thirty days in jail for a first offense with less than an ounce, or 28 grams, of marijuana up to ten years for a third offense of possession of less than a gram of cocaine. These offenses carry varying fines that substantially increase with subsequent convictions and could stay on your criminal record forever if convicted of certain offenses.

Another issues to look out for with simple possession charges is if you are visiting our beautiful state and are charged with simple possession. States such as Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania to name a few will take away your driver’s license for certain drug convictions. It is absolutely important that if you are an out of state resident on vacation or passing through South Carolina that you hire an attorney if you are charged with a drug crime. Failure to protect your rights could have grave consequences in your home state. The last thing you want to happen is to be found guilty of simple possession in South Carolina only to find out that you will be losing your license to drive in your home state. Drug convictions can also affect your ability to get federal school loans, affect your professional licenses and other unintended consequences for what seems like a minor charge. Before you go it alone, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Thrower & Schwartz for a free case consultation to protect your rights.

Manufacturing, distribution and Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID) carry higher penalties than simply possessing drugs. You can be charged with PWID even if you don’t have more than an ounce of marijuana on you if you are caught with the drugs bagged in individual baggies or with other paraphernalia that lends the law to believe you are possessing the drugs with the intent to sell them. Manufacturing, distribution and possession with intent to distribute can carry signification jail time and heavy fines. If you have been charged with PWID or distribution or manufacturing call Thrower & Schwartz for a free criminal lawyer consultation to discuss your options and rights.

Trafficking is a charge that is based on the total amount of drugs that are confiscated. A trafficking charge often carries significant jail time, many times with a mandatory minimum jail sentence if convicted. A conviction for trafficking drugs may constitute what is known as a “strike” and can lead to life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.