Should I Talk to the Police?
What should you do if you are being investigated for a crime and the police want to talk with you about it? Well, the short answer is: Don’t do so without an attorney present.
Though you should be respectful, you should make it clear that you have no intention in talking with them without your criminal defense attorney present. So, why is this?
Well, when the police want to talk to you it is generally for one of two reasons: (1) You are a suspect; (2) You are a possible suspect.
From a common sense standpoint: Why else would the police want to talk with you? It’s possible that your name was mentioned by another suspect, or that you look like the alleged suspect?
Fortunately, the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution protects against self-incrimination. The United States Constitution states that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” However, like many other Constitutional provisions, this right is subject to exceptions and interpretations. I will not be getting into the exceptions here, but rather will attempt to explain why it is import to invoke this right, and wait for an attorney, prior to talking with the police.
Lets go over the top ten reasons you should invoke your Fifth Amendment right and NOT talk to the police:
First off, talking to the police can in no way help you. You wont talk your way out of an arrest and any of the exculpatory statements you make will be inadmissible in court due to the hearsay rules. There is no positive in talking to the police.
Second, even if you’re guilty, and feel the need to confess and get it off of your chest, you still should not talk to the police. There is no positive in doing so. Under this scenario, your best course of action would be to hire an attorney and let them do the work. Even if you are guilty, why rush to a confession? There will always be an opportunity to do so at a later time. Plus, there is always the chance that the arresting officer fails to appear, or cannot be located and the case ends up being dismissed. This would not occur if a confession had been taken.
Third, even if you are 100% innocent, it is easy to slip up and tell a white lie. A white lie could be used to attack your credibility as a prior inconsistent statement at trial.
Fourth, even if you are 100% innocent, and only tell the truth, and don’t tell any white lies, you may still give the police some information that could be used to convict you. For example: “I did not attack the victim. I wasn’t even in the same city. I don’t even own or have access to the weapon used. Though I never liked the victim, I would never harm them.” Your incriminating statement: “I never liked the victim” could provide the police with a motive.
Fifth, even if you are 100% innocent, and only tell the truth, don’t tell any white lies, and you don’t give the police any information that could be used to prove motive/opportunity, you should still not talk to the police due to the possibility that they may not recall your statement with 100% accuracy. No one has a perfect memory and that includes police officers.
Sixth, even if you are 100% innocent, and only tell the truth, and your entire statement is videotaped so that the police don’t have to rely on their memory, an innocent person can still make some innocent assumption of fact or detail about the case, which would likely result in the police assuming that the only way you could have known that fact or that detail was if you were, in fact, guilty. For example: You overhear something on the way to the station and later mention what you overheard, it could be used against you as an adopted admission statement.
Seventh, even if you are 100% innocent, only tell the truth, give the police no information that can be used against you, and your entire statement is videotaped, a suspect’s answers can still be used against them if the police have any evidence that the statements are false. This can happen even if the statements are 100% true. Honest mistakes can result in you being placed in jail. Don’t risk it.
Eighth, the police have no authority or power to make deals or grant leniency in exchange for getting a statement. The only one with the authority to make deals would be the City Attorney, the County Prosecutor or the US Attorney in Federal Court. The officers may tell you that they have the authority, but they are lying. Police officers are allowed to lie in order to make an arrest. They are taught how to lie, and the courts have consistently allowed the police to lie to suspects (this is what undercover operations are all about).
Ninth, even if you are guilty, and want to confess, there may be mitigating factors that may justify a lesser charge. You may be accused of committing one offense, when in reality you are guilty of a lesser offense. If you were to confess to the higher offense you essentially toss out any bargaining power you may hold. Further, the prosecutor could try the case and use your confession to convict you of the higher offense.
Finally, tenth, even for a completely honest and 100% innocent individual, it is difficult to replicate the same exact story twice in the exact same way. If testifying at trial is the first time you tell your story, there will be no other statement that could be used to contradict any of your facts. However, if you have given prior statements to the police, you are likely going to mess some of the facts up. A good cross-examining prosecutor would certainly take advantage of this and attack your credibility on the stand.
*Adopted from a video lecture by Professor Dwayne. The video is reproduced in full below.