In jails and correctional facilities there is more often than not a sign posted at the pay telephone in the jail that calls are subject to monitoring. Many incarcerated individuals either ignore the sign, or forget about the warning, when calling the outside world. My practice has always been to warn my clients about making any statements to anyone else besides myself, and always in a private location.
Several times in my career I have been called by Prosecutors informing me that they have additional evidence which they intend to use at trial. A few days later I receive in the mail compact disk recordings between my client and friends or family members discussing aspects of the criminal charge or charges despite my warnings. The best way to prevent this is to never discuss the case over the jail telephone.
Mail is also monitored by jail or prison deputies, with copies of correspondence often being provided to the Prosecution. The jail or correctional facility also keeps track of who visits a particular inmate, which might have evidentiary value by the Prosecution in certain circumstances.
Telephone conversations and monitoring the mail can cause a winnable, defensible case to become hard to defend. With all the tools that the Prosecution already has it is important that a Defendant not give any other advantages.
Claims of privacy fall on deaf ears with the Court. There is no expectation of privacy in jail or prison for someone incarcerated. A defense attorney may argue with the Court that the communication was protected by a privilege under the right circumstances, but even under the right circumstances it is not a given that a Judge will suppress such statements from consideration. I repeat – the best advice for a prisoner is to not discuss their case at all, unless it is in private and with their own lawyer.
An incarcerated Defendant also should not discuss his or her case with another inmate. Some inmates want to pretend like they have legal experience to help – which is the farthest thing from the truth – and do more harm than good. Jails and prisons are filled with snitches who are looking to turn over information to law enforcement to garner some form of favor. Nothing good can happen to a prisoner who chooses to discuss their case with someone other than their lawyer.
Hiring the right lawyer may be one of the most important decisions you make for yourself and your family. There are many lawyers who claim to do more than what they are able – just as there are many surgeons in the world that are no better than butchers. Do not settle for a legal hack job. Practicing law is a skill that develops over time with experience, commitment, dedication, and God given talent. There are no amateur attorneys at Hilf & Hilf, PLC – only professionals that are guided by the humanity in the individuals we serve, and the drive not to settle for what is easy over what is right.