Should I talk to the police? The short answer is no. The long answer is also no. Apart from identifying information, or if you are in immediate danger, speaking with police in relation to a criminal investigation is never a good idea. Whenever anyone asks me for legal advice, the number one thing I tell them is DON’T TALK TO THE POLICE. Talking to the police almost always increases your chances of being charged with a crime. Exercise your right to remain silent.
You have the right to remain silent. That sounds nice but what does that mean? Many clients are concerned that if they remain silent it will make them look guilty. The problem with that theory is that it presumes the police haven’t already made up their mind. If police are interviewing, interrogating, or questioning you, they are trying to obtain incriminating information. A right is something you naturally possess. If you exercise a right, the exercise of that right cannot be used against you. So if you go to trial, a prosecutor can never tell a jury that you invoked your right to remain silent and chose not to speak to police. If a prosecutor did that the case would immediately be thrown out.
If police have you talking, then they’ve already achieved an investigative goal. They use the same language to get people to talk. Here are some classic examples:
“This is your chance to talk.”
“I just want to hear your side if the story.”
“Tell me what happened from your perspective.”
“We know you’re a good person that just made a mistake.”
“If you’re honest, it can only help you.”
“We already know most of what happened, help us fill in the blanks.”
These questions aren’t off the cuff. Police are trained to ask these questions. These questions are designed to coerce admissions and confessions. Interrogations usually start off cordial. The good cop/bad cop schtick isn’t reality (though I’ve seen it a few times). Police start by being nice. They pretend to be objective. If being nice doesn’t work, they don’t usually resort to yelling and screaming. Instead, they use repetition. Police will ask the same question different ways to try and coerce a different answer. By rephrasing the question, police confuse the suspect. When a suspect is confused, they can often provide contradictory information.
The police often manipulate your words. In one case I had, a police officer wrote in his report that my client did not deny the allegations until the very end of the interview. The officer wrote this to make my client seem guilty. When I later obtained the recorded interview of my client, it turned out the officer had completely lied about the interview. My client had adamantly denied the allegations no less than half a dozen times during his interrogation. That is why police reports are not evidence. Police reports are hearsay documents that can assist people in recollecting past events. But police reports cannot simply be read to a jury at the time of trial. And that’s a good thing – because they are often filled with inaccurate information.
Don’t forget that police can lie to you during an interrogation. Nothing they say to you about their investigation needs to be true. Oftentimes, police will use that to their advantage. An officer will tell a suspect that they have DNA, fingerprints, or some other forensic evidence that proves guilt. Ask yourself why the police need to talk to you if they have already made their case. I’ve seen many times where an officer says to a suspect, “We already have your DNA on the murder weapon, just tell us why you did it.” In reality, the police didn’t even have the murder weapon, let alone DNA. Other times, the police can confront you with statements made by witnesses or other suspects. Police will say “We have a witness who saw you pull the trigger” or “Your friend already told us you planned to rob the store together.” It doesn’t matter whether the witness or your friend actually made those statements; the police can simply make them up to get you to talk.
It also doesn’t matter how many times you deny the allegations during the interrogation. Police don’t care. If you they believe you are guilty, and you do not invoke your right to remain silent or right to counsel, the police will continue to question you until they get what they want. I call this confession via exhaustion. Many suspects simply say what the police want them to say just to end the interview. I’ve seen countless clients deny the allegations dozens of times in an interview, and then confess to something they didn’t do just to satisfy the officers. The interrogation process is less about truth and more about results.
What’s the best way to avoid these situations? Remain silent, and don’t talk to the police.
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