Since everyone that has ever watched a police show on television or at the movies knows the standard Miranda Warning almost as well as the police that read it to every suspect they question, you would think that everyone who is picked up by the police would ask for a lawyer as soon as the police finished reading that warning. From a civil liberties perspective it is a great shame that that is not the case. The police, of course, do not see it that way.
Why should you ask for a criminal lawyer before answering any questions? If the police have read you your Miranda Warning, it means that they suspect that you might be guilty of a crime. Whether you are guilty, or completely innocent, or more likely somewhere in between, the reasons may be different, but you need the advice of a lawyer before you proceed through the mine fields, the tricks, the traps and the loop holes of the legal system. Your attorney is your guide through the system.
If you are guilty, the reasons are probably obvious why you need an attorney. You want a criminal lawyer to prevent you from saying anything that will make it easier for the police to get the evidence necessary to convict you of the crime. You also want any punishment that might result from a conviction to be as light as possible. It might be in your best interest to help the police in their investigation, but it should be your criminal lawyer, not the police, that advises you of that.
If you are completely innocent, the reasons for requesting a lawyer may not be so obvious. After all, the innocent party may reason, isn’t it in my best interest to help the police find out who really did the crime? The answer is yes, but unfortunately, the police are frequently over worked, some times lazy, some times less than competent, but more importantly they are, after all, human. If they are convinced that you are guilty, they are unlikely to expend much effort looking for some one else. Your criminal lawyer can help to make sure that the answers that you give are more likely to point the police in some other direction than at you.
For the person who is guilty of something, but not the main crime that the police are really interested in, it is especially important to talk to a lawyer before talking to the police. If you know something that may be of assistance to the police in catching the person they should be looking for, your lawyer may be able to get you complete immunity for the minor crimes that you may have committed. The police may offer you the deal before you talk to a criminal lawyer, but only your lawyer is going to be able to make sure that the police and prosecutor play fair with their deals.
In other words, if the police read you your Miranda Rights and ask you the question; do you want a lawyer; the best answer to the question will be yes. If you think you have information that might help the police catch someone else for the crime they think you may have committed, you might want to say; “I would like to cooperate, but I want to talk to a criminal lawyer first.” The most important thing to say when asked that Miranda question, whether you are guilty or innocent, is; “I want to talk to a lawyer.”