Recently, news outlets have been abuzz about the sentencing of Apollo Nida, known for his recent appearance on the television show, "Real Housewives of Atlanta." Reports are saying that Nida, whose wife Phaedra Parks is an attorney, got "an enormous break" by talking to investigators and giving up information about his criminal activities. TMZ. (2014 July 8). "Housewives' Star Apollo Nida: 8 Years In Prison Sentence Shortened For SNITCHING" Retrieved from http://www.tmz.com/2014/07/08/apollo-nida-sentencing-money-fraud-charges-guilty-plea-prison. The important takeaway from these news reports is not that defendants should quickly tell investigators or police everything they know in hopes of a more appealing outcome. The better takeaway, which is unstated in many articles, is that Nida was represented by an attorney who worked to help him receive a more lenient sentence, and criminal defendants would be wise to have counsel of their own.
Rarely do criminal defendants improve their circumstances by speaking freely with officers or investigators. Although making statements or volunteering to testify against another individual may have a positive outcome in a person's case, those avenues should be analyzed by an attorney who can effectively evaluate the repercussions they can have. A defendant may be able to receive a reduced sentence by simply remaining silent under the right circumstances. Another defendant may be better off testifying at trial. A qualified attorney can recognize those situations. Furthermore, an attorney can take the steps needed to ensure any bargains made are upheld.
Many people fear that if they do not make any statements, such silence may be an indication of guilt. While there is no way of knowing how any individual, particularly an officer of the law, may respond to a person's assertion of his or her right to remain silent, such assertion is not to be used as an admission of guilt in court. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The important factor to consider when examining these situations is that once a person is suspected of a crime, an adversarial system takes over which pits a suspect against his accusers, generally the police. The nature of such a system encourages each side to seek out evidence that favors his or her position. Whether right or wrong, this causes some investigators to question suspects until they receive an answer they want to hear. Unfortunately, such questioning may involve trickery, deceit, or lies - all legally. The Supreme Court has ruled that officers may misrepresent facts during their investigations. Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731, 740 (1969). Such practices have led to the conviction of completely innocent individuals who chose to talk. Therefore, if you are suspected of committing a crime and are inclined to talk, talk to someone who is on your side. Obtain counsel and weigh all of your options with someone who knows the system and wants to make it work for you.