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Indianapolis Criminal Defense Law Blog

How police use lies and threats to get false confessions

The police interrogation chamber isn’t a two-way room. The police hold all the power. They hold you in place. They ask the questions. They can make the threats. And they can lie.

The result is that they often elicit false confessions. More often that you might expect. In fact, more than one-quarter of the people exonerated by the Innocence Project had made false confessions. Given that most people can’t understand why anyone would ever give a false confession, the fact is somewhat alarming.

How dangerous is snitch testimony?

No one wants to go to jail. Especially not for a crime they didn’t commit. And especially not when the conviction is based on a story made up by a convict hoping to buy himself some favors or leniency.

Nevertheless, jail snitches and their made-up stories continue to wreak havoc in the justice system. And their lies continue to make their way into the news, such as with the case of a man recently released from a Pennsylvania prison. As the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, his conviction for a triple murder turned largely on the testimony of an inmate who claimed he had been an accomplice in the crime.

Would a proposed law improve the criminal justice system?

If you’ve seen anyone arrested on television or in the movies, you’ve probably heard an officer say, “You have the right to remain silent.” Shortly afterward, that officer will say, “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”

The lines come from the Miranda warning, which is meant to remind you of your Sixth Amendment rights. However, as with so many things, there’s a gulf between the principle and the practice of the law. For example, who determines whether you can afford an attorney? That’s a question that Indiana lawmakers recently asked with the introduction of a new bill. The bill has received bipartisan support, but will it really lead to better justice?

How does the discovery process affect a criminal case?

In the movies and television shows, it’s common to see courtroom dramas turn on the testimony of a surprise witness. Maybe it’s an eyewitness who can place the defendant at the scene of the crime. Maybe it’s a forensic accountant who can trace the stolen cryptocurrency. But either way, this isn’t how things happen in real life.

In real life, if you’re facing criminal charges, you don’t want surprise evidence thrown against you in the courtroom. It’s hard to defend yourself against something made up or brought in at the last minute. And thanks to the discovery process, you shouldn’t have to worry about this surprise evidence.

Does Indiana place limits on self-defense?

Normally, it’s a crime to shoot someone. You can’t just go around waving your gun and pulling the trigger. Similarly, the law tends to frown upon hitting and kicking. But there are cases in which your use of force may be justified, even when it involves a gun.

Every state—including Indiana—allows people to use force to defend themselves. However, the laws for the different states can vary. This means you want to know the laws for the state you’re in. And the recent case of an Indiana man charged with shooting two judges offers a timely prompt to explore Indiana’s self-defense laws.

What is the age of consent in Indiana?

In some cases, two people can have willing, consensual sex, and one of them might still be committing a crime. It’s all about age.

In Indiana, the age of consent is 16. Once someone reaches 16 years of age, the law allows them to make their own decisions about their sexual relations. Their adult partners no longer risk charges of sexual misconduct with a minor. But that doesn’t mean adults with 16-year-old partners are entirely in the clear.

Be careful how you take care of prescription drugs

At some point, your doctor may have given you a prescription for a painkiller. It’s common for doctors to prescribe medicine to help people deal with pain after injuries. But did you know that holding those drugs could lead to felony charges?

Indiana's drug laws classify many of the most common painkillers as Schedule II narcotics. That means you could face felony charges for possessing or distributing painkillers like codeine, fentanyl, oxycodone or Vicodin.

Who is listed in the Indiana sex offender registry?

How much would you like to add some extra paperwork to your life? And would you like to back that up with the threat of legal consequences if you don’t do it? And what if your reward for all this paperwork was the scorn and distrust of your neighbors and peers?

If that doesn’t sound like a winning proposition, you should keep yourself out of the Indiana sex offender registry. What is the registry? There’s an online portal that allows you to check the names of all listed offenders near you. But the registry is more than an online list of convicts.

Evidence can be unreliable

In many ways, criminal trials are about telling stories. A prosecutor's job is to use the evidence the cops uncovered to secure a conviction by explaining to the jury what they believe happened.

To that end, the prosecutors will try to weave the evidence into a story. They want to convince the jury that the evidence all points to the guilt of the accused. Everything from an accused person's motivation to their ability to commit the crime could be tied to the evidence presented.

Where's the line between fair pay and health care fraud?

All clinics and hospitals want to provide quality health care. Most want to keep improving. Often, that means recruiting the best and brightest physicians available. To recruit these doctors and specialists, the clinics and hospitals need to offer competitive salary, but what happens if they raise the bar too high?

The answer is that they might run afoul of the Stark Law. Like the members of Indiana’s Community Health Network, they could find themselves facing serious charges of health care fraud. Convictions could cost them millions of dollars as well as possible jail time. But how do we know whether the hospitals and clinics are committing fraud—or simply responding to market pressures?

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