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An Improper Promise Can Make a Statement Inadmissible in Florida

When the police in Florida believe a suspect committed a crime, they will often take steps to get that suspect to make admissions that can be used against the suspect in court. When the police take someone into custody and seek to get a statement from the suspect, the police have to read the suspect the Miranda warnings informing the suspect that he/she does not have to make any statement and has a right to a criminal defense lawyer. We advise people that it is almost always in a suspect’s best interests to remain silent in those circumstances, as the Constitutional gives a person a right to do. It may be a good idea to talk to the police at some point, but it is generally smarter to do so once the suspect has a better idea of the allegations, issues and the process.

The police use a variety of tactics to get people to make statements that will incriminate themselves. However, not all such methods are legal. In order for a confession to be admissible in court, it must be voluntarily given. This does not just mean the police cannot beat a confession out of a suspect. It also refers to situations where the police use improper threats or promises to elicit a statement. In a recent robbery and attempted murder case near Jacksonville, Florida, the police were investigating a shooting and brought the suspect in for questioning. At first, the suspect denied any knowledge of the shooting. The police officers pressed the suspect and ultimately implied that if the suspect told the truth, as the police saw it, the suspect would likely face lesser felony charges. The suspect changed his story and admitted to involvement in the shooting.

The criminal defense attorney filed a motion to suppress the defendant’s statement arguing it was not voluntary. The appellate court agreed. The police are not allowed to make improper promises of leniency to get the defendant to make a statement. Therefore, the police cannot suggest that the defendant would face lesser charges or receive some other benefit for making a statement.

The job of the police is to get evidence that they can use to make a strong case against the defendant. The stronger the state’s case, the more leverage the state has to get a tougher sentence. Therefore, it is antithetical to think that offering the state more evidence to strengthen their case against you somehow translates into a lighter sentence for you. However, notwithstanding that obvious contradiction, it is also unconstitutional to offer a benefit for a statement as it affects the voluntariness of the statement.