If my 19-year old son was charged with third degree arson but was not read his rights or asked if he wanted an attorney, what should he say in court?

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If my 19-year old son was charged with third degree arson but was not read his rights or asked if he wanted an attorney, what should he say in court?

He says that he did not commit this crime but he signed a statement saying that he did because he was given a choice of writing a confession or facing 3-5 years in jail if he went to trial. He says he just wrote the confession to stay out of jail. What should he say in court about this “confession”? He was questioned for 6 hours over two days but his family was not allowed to be with him. He is defending himself in court because he cannot afford an attorney.

Asked on December 6, 2011 under Criminal Law, South Carolina

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If your son cannot afford an attorney presently, he should at the arraignment request the court for the appointment of legal counsel, most likely the public defender's office. There is no guarantee that one will be appointed in that there has to be an application form filled out and his financial status is evaluated.

I would plead "not guilty" at the arraignment that is coming up. Given the possibility of a Miranda violation, it is best that your son somehow find a way to retain legal counsel to defend him in that to get the confession supressed, he will need to file a legal motion to do so which typically involves an experienced attorney to do so.


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