Do Not Let the Police Isolate You
Without access to a friend, family or a criminal defense lawyer, a person detained at a police station is easy prey. Detectives trained in forensic interrogation techniques are fully aware that they greatly improve their chances of securing a suspect’s confession by isolating him. Detectives may attempt to dissuade a suspect from contacting someone, especially a lawyer, for advice.
Your Right to a Telephone Call is the Law
The right to use a telephone to reach family, friends or a criminal defense attorney, as enshrined in Massachusetts G.L. c. 276, § 33A, prevents the police from cutting off an individual from outside resources. The original version of G.L. c. 276, § 33A obligated the police to inform a detainee “of his right to so use the telephone immediately upon being booked.” The Supreme Judicial Court interpreted the original to require that “. . . due diligence shall be used to inform the arrested person with reasonable promptness” of his right to make a telephone call. Commonwealth vs. Bouchard, 347 Mass. 418, 419-420 (1964). Recognizing that the police had begun to “. . . postpone the right of access to the telephone by delay in booking,” the Legislature amended the statute to require notification upon arrival to prevent the police from frustrating the statute’s goal of prompt notice. By adopting the present version, the Legislature demonstrated its resolve to end the police practice of detaining and questioning a suspect at length, and possibly securing his confession, before advising him of his right to contact the world outside. The statutory language, and the legislative intent behind it, are unequivocal: the detainee must be advised of his right to make a telephone call before substantive questioning is initiated.
Use Your Telephone Call to Contact a Cambridge Criminal Defense Lawyer
When the police have refused a defendant use of a telephone, the Supreme Judicial Court has acted decisively. Acknowledging the ability of police to undermine 276, § 33A, the Supreme Judicial Court held in Commonwealth vs. Jones, 362 Mass. 497, 503 (1972) that “. . . in order to make [276, § 33A] an effective piece of legislation, courts should suppress unfavorable evidence gained as a result of denying a defendant the right to use a telephone.”
If you are taken into custody, insist on your right to use a telephone or cell phone. Refuse to allow the police to isolate you, persuade you that your circumstances are so hopelessly dire that you should just confess to save everyone unnecessary aggravation, and belittle you as a human being. Reach out to those people who care about you. You will feel less alone, and consequently make better decisions.
Insist on Your Right to Call a Criminal Attorney
Resist the temptation to allow detectives to persuade you to forgo calling someone. Submitting to police questioning before speaking with a qualified criminal defense lawyer is usually a mistake. Before making a statement that you may later regret, call us at 617-492-0055 to schedule a free in-office consultation with Attorney Kevin J. Mahoney, a Cambridge defense lawyer with more than twenty years of experience. He will advise you honestly and professionally.