Interviewer: What can people do to protect themselves, if they find themselves accused of sexual assault? Obviously, you speak to an attorney, but what mistakes do people make that make the case more difficult to defend?
Just as Important for Military Members as for Civilians: You Must Consult an Attorney and Exercise Your Right Not to Incriminate Yourself
Chris Cazares: In many instances, the biggest mistake that I believe individuals make are their insistence that they want to clear their name. They want to be proactive in exonerating themselves, which is a great attitude to have, but only after you talk to an attorney or after you’ve invoked your right to silence.
Always maintain that there is nothing to say before you talk to your attorney or after you’ve invoked your right to silence. No one can be compelled into making a statement to police, to investigators, NCIS, OSI, or CID.
It’s interesting when you talk to your client. I realize they want to talk to CID or NCIS, or whatever person in a position of authority that they believe they need to talk to. This is because what they heard is that they have to get their side of the story out, otherwise the command is left with no other choice but to believe the victim.
That’s a great psychological weapon to use against the individual, to terrify them into believing that they’ll never be heard. What you really have to know is that you’re not going to be heard that second. It’s not going to happen right now.
It Is Vital to Have Your Attorney Advise You on How the Investigative Process Will Unfold
What is going to happen is you’re going to have an intelligent conversation with your attorney about the pros and cons of what the situation is could to entail. Certainly you really want to have the conversation about invoking your right of keeping silent.
It Is the Investigator’s Responsibility to Uncover Facts about the Case
When people speak to investigators, the paradigm is almost always going to be: they’ll want to believe me, they’re going to believe me, I’m a good person, I didn’t do this. They expect investigators to believe that. However, it is important to know that’s not the way the investigators are looking at the situation.
In a Military Setting, the Accused Is Not Privy to All of the Evidence Gathered by the Investigators
They’re looking at it with the cynical, critical eye, and they’re there to collect evidence. It’s really not about getting two sides of the story. If you ask the investigator, “How often do these kinds of cases get dropped when they talk to you?” They can, under the law, lie to you. “Oh all the time, it happens all the time.” No, it’s not true.
That’s not their policy. When you have all of that evidence that you believe in your mind is true, they on the other side of the table do have access to witnesses that you don’t know about, so you’re really going into the conversation as uninformed as possible.
It’s almost like when you go to buy a car, the seller has all the information, and the buyer has very little information. Now you go off and do your research, but if you’re not armed, if you’re not ready with all of the possible scenarios in evidence, if you don’t understand what you’re looking at, it’s not an intelligent interaction.
It’s not a winnable, fair battle, it’s something that you are expected to lose. That’s why they want you talk right away. That is by far the biggest mistake anybody can make. Closely linked to that is discussing any aspect of the case and talking about their behavior with friends or with investigators.
Because anything they say can and will be used against them. And often times the things that they do say, are taken out of context and used to prosecute them later.