Jail Phone Calls and the Ramifications of Saying Too Much

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Jail Phone Calls — Is Someone Really Listening? YES!

One of the biggest temptations for any defendant once they get behind bars is to call loved ones. Obviously, anyone in that situation would feel the need to reach out to their support group for help, advice, and/or direction. However, and almost without fail, we see instance after instance of inmates talking about the facts of their case to loved ones. And, in almost every single case, the information they are sharing is either incredibly hurtful to their case, somewhat hurtful to their case, or neutral at best. Never, and we mean NEVER, is it helpful.
As a result, if a current or perspective client ever calls us from a jail, every single time we answer the phone we state, “We are currently being recorded, do not talk about the facts of your case. We can answer any and all administrative questions you might have, but we cannot discuss your case over the phone. However, we’d be happy to meet in person.”
Despite knowing the ramifications, however, each and every day thousands upon thousands of inmates spill the beans to their friends and families over a recorded and monitored telephone line. Amazingly, they’ll discuss their guilt, their intent to commit the crime, their accomplices, their motive, and even going as far as telling their family to lie to the police or prosecution. Why? Because most defendants believe the chances of a prosecutor or detective actually listening to their calls is incredibly slim given the enormous amount of phone calls made each day.
More often than not, we hear this misconception because defendants think that the only way for someone to hear the content of their calls is to listen to the conversation live, or as it happens. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, every single phone call from any jail is monitored, recorded, data-based, and electronically stored by inmate name, gallery number, PIN number, date, time, duration of call, outgoing number, and recipient.
Surprising, huh? It shouldn’t be, because it says it at the beginning of every single call you make or receive from a jail.
What many find even more surprising is that prosecutors do in fact listen to jail phone calls — thousands upon thousands of them! As former prosecutors ourselves, we used to listen to jail phone calls on a daily basis. Because of our experience, we can always guarantee our clients that their jail phone calls are being listened to on a regular basis —- especially in cases where the prosecutor believes they have a weaker case.
Be it from the first call made after an arrest to the hundreds of calls made over the course of a defendant’s incarceration, you can bet your life savings the prosecutor is hearing everything. And, given that prosecutors are overworked, many of them listen to jail phone calls while reviewing other cases or eating lunch — as background “music” if you will. That’s why most prosecutors refer to jail phone calls as “free gold.”
But why do prosecutors listen to jail phone calls? BECAUSE THEY ARE ADMISSIBLE AT COURT AS EVIDENCE! So long as the prosecutor can prove, and they lay the appropriate foundation that the call was in fact made by the defendant, then the contents of those calls that are relevant to the current charges are admissible as evidence. Moreover, all too often cases that were once weak, or lacked the sufficient evidence to convict, then become strong cases for the prosecution. And, unfortunately, that wouldn’t have been the case if the inmate just kept their mouth shut.
So what can you talk about during jail phone calls? Anything and everything unrelated to your case. Catch up with people, ask for money for your commissary, tell them to contact your attorney to come visit — anything —- anything, BUT YOUR CASE. Sadly, many defendant’s own words are used against them, and unnecessarily so.
However, this problem can also be solved by family members and loved ones refusing to talk about the facts of the inmate’s cases. They can gently (or firmly) remind their loved one in jail that “someone is listening, please don’t talk with me about your case.” While it may be tempting to do so, it should never be done. In addition, family members need to be careful about talking to inmates in person during visitation as well — as those conversations aren’t privileged either. Even more tempting is for inmates to call loved ones using another inmate’s PIN or calling privileges. We assure you that prosecutors know how to check for that as well. Many times they don’t search jail phone calls by inmates name, but rather by the numbers they know the inmates would be calling!
So, in the end, the only person that should talk to an inmate about their criminal case is the lawyer, and the lawyer only. Those conversations are guaranteed to be private, confidential, and privileged. While you may believe that you can outsmart the prosecutor or a detective, you can’t — and even if you can, the risk is too great given communicating through your lawyer accomplishes the same thing without the risk.
If you find yourself in a situation with a loved one being incarcerated, and you have questions about jail phone calls or any other criminal issue, give the experienced former prosecutors at Banks & Brower a call today. Our Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys can help you through this tough time. Give us a call at 317.870.0019 24/7/365 or email us at info@banksbrower.com.