There is a common phrase used by our criminal defense firm when meeting with people – None of our clients have ever been convicted by not talking to the police. There are few things in the law that are absolutes, but this is one of the closest to it. That is, it is never a good idea to talk to the police alone. Sometimes, it is a good idea to talk with police with your lawyer. Here are five things to know about why that is.
Law Enforcement Is Allowed To Lie To You
There are many techniques available to officers when they wish to question a witness or a suspect. Perhaps the one least known is that police can lie. Typically, this could include that your DNA was found somewhere, that they have video or photographic evidence, or that there is another witness saying things detrimental to you. All of these could be lies. This is another reason having a lawyer with you is so important. When presented with the lie, people can easily be confused and start trying to change or fit their statements to the lie. Police are better at asking you questions than you are at speaking to them because its not a normal conversation.
If You Are Not In Custody, Police Do Not Have To Read You Your Rights
A common misconception is that if police never read you your Miranda rights, then they cannot use anything against you. Miranda is only required during custodial interrogation. In other words, if the police question you and you are not “in custody” or if you voluntarily go to speak to police, they do not have to read you your rights. This may give the appearance that it will be a friendly conversation, and one that will not hurt your interests in any way. However, whether you are completely innocent of any crime or not, you go into this scenario with imperfect information.
Unlike On Television, Getting A Lawyer Does Not Make You Look Guilty
Of the thousands of clients we have represented over the years who were contacted by police to request an interview, never once has a police officer gotten upset or implied that means our client did something wrong. In fact, it is often the opposite. Police are more comfortable sharing initial information with a lawyer that they may be worried would be inappropriate or misunderstood by a lay person. Often police will be much more straightforward with the attorney, including whether or not you are being sought as a witness or a suspect, and what topic or topics they wish to question you about. Police will rarely ever have that conversation with you, preferring instead to ensure everything you’re saying is in their controlled environment.
Talking To The Police May Result In Criminal Charges Even When You Are Innocent Of Anything Else
This comes into play when someone has previously given a statement. Many people remember the legal troubles Barry Bonds and Martha Stewart had. However, not nearly as many people know that they did not get in trouble for steroids or insider trading. Both were prosecuted and convicted for giving incomplete or conflicting statements.
It is completely reasonable to make a mistake when you give a statement. Memories can be off, you could be confused, or any number of other reasons could mean that you gave wrong information without any bad purpose. However, alone with police, you may be stuck, answer wrong again, which now is a knowing lie, or correct the error and now you have given two conflicting answers which not only looks improper but may be a form of false statement worthy of a criminal charge.
A lawyer will ensure that prior to any questioning, you be allowed to review any prior statements with your lawyer confidentially, so you can be comfortable that either it is correct, or if any part is not, how to appropriately respond to that in a way that avoids a potential criminal charge.
If You Did Do Something Wrong, Talking Or Explaining What Happened To The Police Will Not Help You
It is very normal for a person to think talking to the police is like any other situation. Yes, I made a mistake, I can apologize, or explain it, or make things right, and everything will be ok. That is not what will occur. Instead, an apology is as good as a confession, because a juror always believes that no one would apologize for something they did not do.
If you did something wrong, made a mistake, or committed a crime, the absolute worst thing you can do is speak to police without a lawyer. It is extremely unlikely that an officer with probable cause that you committed a crime will not file charges because you were very cooperative in your confession or gave a great explanation why. In these cases, the best answer is usually having your lawyer politely decline any interview on your behalf, and in the event officers move forward with charges, set up a time and place for you to self-surrender with your lawyer present. It may be scary to imagine being charged, but if it is going to happen, it will not be stopped by you giving an explanation. Having a lawyer on your side will ensure you are protected during this process and that you are spared the trauma of having an arrest warrant executed at your home or worse, your job.