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The impact of false statements in a criminal case

False statements are always problematic in any criminal investigation or during a criminal proceeding in Virginia, whether it is a federal or state matter. Inaccurate information can neither be used to prosecute someone, nor can suspects lie to law enforcement officials when being questioned. Once a suspect or defendant chooses to speak, anything they say can be used against them. This also includes using the fact the suspect lied to investigators as a basis for a criminal charge.

This failure to be honest with investigators is commonly called a “process crime” because the primary criminal element is deceiving the government while they are in the process of attempting to extract incriminating information from the very individual that is a target for potential prosecution. And not only can this happen in a formal setting where the suspect has been requested to provide a deposition, but it can apply even following a traffic stop or when police officers have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

This potential for a process crime charge is why most criminal defense attorneys will advise clients to invoke their 5th Amendment right to silence when officials want to question them. Even having an attorney present does not matter when inaccurate information is delivered to official interrogators. The Martha Stewart prosecution for lying directly to investigators during her insider trading case is one of the best examples of the false statement application, as her deceptive statements to prosecutors were ultimately the primary evidence used against her after learning she was indeed not being forthright.

While willingness to discuss a legal matter with officials can be construed as an indication of innocence, an experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney still understands that this is a slippery slope for their clients. It is an attorney’s charge to protect their client when they can, and serving as a representative during any questioning period is central to that protection. Prosecutors can twist statements to fit their objective, and an effective legal counselor should always be present to avoid a process crime charge for their client over providing misleading statements.

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