If you are charged with a crime, you might be held in the county jail until you can make bond or your case is closed. If that is you, the very first piece of advice your criminal defense attorney should give you is to not talk about your case with anyone while you're in there. This holds especially true when using the jailhouse phone, email or texting systems. Everything you say on a jail phone call can and probably will be used against you.
Here are just a few ways in which the prosecuting attorney will use what you say on a jail phone call to your detriment:
To compile direct evidence against you at trial.
You may have read recently about the 14 year old boy being charged as an adult who confessed to a murder while on the jailhouse phone with his father. While there is no way to know how strong the State's case against this boy was prior to his confessing on the phone, he certainly didn't do himself favors. At his trial, the recording of that phone call will be introduced as an exhibit against him as direct evidence that he is guilty of the murder. The jury will hear him confess to the crime in his own words. Additionally, he has limited the options he would have in making his own defense. The defense he now puts forward at trial must jive with the statement me made on the telephone. If it doesn't, the prosecutor will use his own words on the telephone to convince the jury he is guilty. Don't put yourself in this situation.
To further their investigation against you.
Just because you are charged with a crime doesn't mean the State can prove you actually committed it. Contrary to what some of these "law and order" types say, you have no duty to help law enforcement prove you guilty of anything. By talking on the jail phone about your case, you are doing just that. For example, if you say names of relevant witnesses, locations or facts on the telephone, you are giving the prosecutors additional leads to use in strengthening their investigation. They now have the ability to locate additional witnesses or incriminating evidence that they otherwise might not have even known about on their own. Even if the things you say on the phone only relate to evidence that is in your favor, you are giving law enforcement the opportunity to verify, mitigate or disprove all of that favorable evidence. Do not allow the police to proactively suppress or explain away information that would otherwise tend to prove your innocence at trial.
For insight into your legal defense.
While your statements to your lawyer are protected by attorney-client privilege, your statements to someone else made on the prison phone about your defense are not. If you talk about your trial strategy to someone over the jail phone, you have just given the prosecuting attorney your playbook. Rest assured, they will be using that information to anticipate your trial strategy and prepare their case against you. All of the work you and your criminal defense attorney have done to give you a fighting chance to beat these charges will be severely damaged.
To charge you with additional crimes.
If prosecutors pull your jail phone records only to find you have been calling the victim or other witnesses on your case, they will suspect you are tampering with the victim or witnesses on the case. In Missouri, it is illegal to call a witness or victim in your case and try to convince them not to participate in the case against you.
This is especially common domestic violence cases. Your lawyer will ask you if the victim plans to press charges, show up in court or otherwise participate in the prosecution of you. He or she might also even inform you that, if they don't press charges, you will likely get a bond reduction or the case might even be dismissed. Understandably, this will make it extremely tempting for you to call the victim to see whether they or not they plan to prosecute and inform that that, if they don't prosecute, you will be able to get out of jail. Do not fall into this trap.
If you do, not only will the prosecutor know that you have called the victim, he or she will now be able to charge you with victim tampering. In some cases, victim tampering is an even more serious offense than the crime for which you are already in jail. Missouri takes victim and witness tampering so seriously that, in some instances, a conviction for these could result in a prison sentence without the possibility of probation or parole. This means that you could be acquitted on the case for which you were originally locked up, but still get a lengthy prison sentence for witness tampering and serve every single day of it.
If someone you know is sitting in a county jail while their case is pending, please take care not to talk with them about their case over the phone. You could seriously be jeopardizing their case and future freedom by doing so. The prosecuting attorney will not hesitate to use the things he or she says against them.
The Glaesman Law Firm, LLC is a full-service criminal defense law firm with offices located in St. Louis and St. Charles, Missouri. If you or a loved one is in jail or has been charged with a crime , contact us right away to discuss your options.