Being under investigation or arrest for a sex crime may come as a shock to the suspect. However, the detectives involved have been carefully crafting their case up to that point, and interrogation is usually one of the final steps in the process.
That means the tactics that will be used during questioning have been strategically weighed. The detective is fully prepared for the encounter.
The suspect very often is not, which is why police are so frequently successful in getting a confession. Much of the time, this happens when the defendant fails to exercise his or her right to have a Birmingham defense lawyer during questioning.
Additionally, people have a false sense of what police can and cannot do in the course of an interrogation. For example, per the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Frazier v. Cupp, police are allowed to deceive a defendant (so long as the “intrinsic misrepresentations” are not coercive).
In the recent case of New Hampshire v. Pyles, a defendant appealed his conviction on three counts of aggravated felonies sexual assault, arguing that the trial court had erred in denial of his motion to suppress statements to police that he would later say violated his Miranda rights. Additionally, the defendant claimed the officer had refused to detail the allegations against him unless he agreed to talk under oath.
The trial court denied his motion to suppress, and that decision was later upheld by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
According to court records, the officer in the case had requested the defendant come to the station for questioning regarding a felonious sexual assault allegation made against him. The defendant complied, but once he got there, police refused to go into detail about who had made the allegation or what the allegation was specifically – unless the defendant agreed to talk.
The detective read the suspect his Miranda rights, although the last line of it was paraphrased. The defendant asked if he was under arrest, and the detective answered in the affirmative.
The officer then laid out a few phrases like, “This is a good time to help yourself,” and “We want to get your side of the story.”
These sorts of phrases imply that an officer is interested in helping the defendant. Please know that this is never their intent – ever. These sorts of phrases designed to get the defendant to talk, preferably without a lawyer.
So too is the way that this detective dangled the prospect of more information if the defendant would talk. But of course, as the court ruled, none of that is illegal. And in this case, it worked. He gave statements that were later used against him in court.
The defendant was ultimately convicted, and his conviction upheld upon appeal, as the state supreme court found no reversible error on the part of the lower courts.
What the defendant should have realized is that while an officer is under no obligation to be truthful or provide detailed information. Further, all of that would have been forthcoming anyway had he insisted on talking with a lawyer.
We recognize that defendants may be panicked and emotional in these times. This is another reason why it is very important that he insist on allowing a lawyer to objectively review the facts and then act to advise the defendant of whether it is in his or her best interest to speak to detectives.
SEX OFFENDERS IN ALABAMA SEVERELY RESTRICTED BY LAW EVEN AFTER RELEASE
A registered sex offender from out-of-state was recently arrested in Phenix City after he was accused of “being too familiar” with other patients while taking his grandson to a pediatrician appointment.
Officially, his charges at this point only pertain to the fact that he failed to inform officials of his visit to Alabama from West Virginia. Authorities say that had he properly registered, his presence at the pediatrician’s office alone would not constitute a crime. Still, media reports accused him of using his grandson’s need to see a doctor as “an excuse” to get closer to other children.
Our Birmingham sex offender defense attorneys recognize this is part of the reason so many sex offenders wind up in trouble again. It’s not that offenders are necessarily doing anything wrong. But sex offenders are treated with a special kind of disdain – and often overreaction – regardless of how much time has lapsed since the conviction. Further, sex offenders by law are held to strict standards in terms of their living arrangements, movements, what jobs they can hold and with whom they can associate. The slightest breach can have swift and severe consequences.
Alabama has over 11,000 sex offenders in the state registry. Each of those individuals is responsible for notifying law enforcement agencies of any changes in employment or residence. They also must fill out and return forms twice annually to authorities, verifying this information and providing updated photographs and fingerprints.
In many cases, sex offenders are barred from living with minors, although there are in some cases exceptions. If the offender’s alleged victim was 12 or under, he or she can’t live with a minor or “loiter in areas where children congregate.”
They may pick up or drop off their children at school or daycare or at the park, but they can’t be there “any longer than necessary to complete the task.”
They also are forbidden from residing certain distances from schools or daycare facilities.
Despite all of these rules and restrictions, recidivism rates among sex offenders vary widely, depending on which crimes are counted. As this Wall Street Journal article points out, numerous sources cite recidivism rates somewhere as high as 70 to 90 percent. And yet, available data suggests it’s actually closer to 25 percent, which is significantly less than other types of offenders (at 47 percent), according to statistics with the U.S. Justice Department. Child molester reconviction rates were even lower, at 20.4 percent. Again, this points to the overreaction society has for these kinds of crimes.
Still, the most common offense for which sex offenders are arrested is failure to register.
This in and of itself is considered a Class C felony, which means if convicted, the individual will be subject to a maximum of 10 years behind bars and up to $15,000 in fines.
Anyone accused of failure to register in Alabama should seek immediate counsel from an experienced attorney.