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Should I talk to the police?

Posted by on in Criminal Defense
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“[A]ny lawyer worth his salt will tell [his client] in no uncertain terms to make no statement to the police under any circumstances."

Justice Robert Jackson, United States Supreme Court (Watts v. Indiana, 338 U.S. 49)

It is difficult to get through life without ever making a mistake. Some mistakes lead to financial problems or personal issues or employment changes. Sometimes the mistakes we make can bring us into the criminal justice system.

Prior to being arrested, or charged with a crime, many people would have sworn that they would never need a criminal defense attorney. A moment's anger, too much to drink, a bad decision, or a misunderstanding may be all it takes. Others find themselves backed into a corner financially or emotionally, and make a bad decision. For others, it may be the result of a physical or mental condition, a compulsion or addiction, or due to the conduct of a family member.

For others, sadly, they may have done nothing wrong, but find themselves the victim of misidentification, misleading circumstantial evidence or the malice of another person and perhaps the most frightening circumstance occurs when one is accused of a crime due to another's malice or ill will, or a police officer's overzealousness, or a prosecutor's political ambitions.

The criminal justice system is by its very nature, an adversary process. It is, and is supposed to be, them against you. Once a police officer and later a prosecutor concludes you did something wrong, their job is to charge you, prosecute you and have you penalized for your misdeed. It can be a tremendous mistake to believe that you can rely on the police or prosecutor to protect you, once they suspect or believe you have committed an offense.

Sure, at least technically, police and prosecutors are seeking justice and want to do the right thing, and very few police officers or prosecutors want to charge the wrong person with a crime, but if they always got it right, no one would ever have their case dismissed or be found not-guilty at trial.

In all of these situations, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help those who are under investigation or accused. Below are some "pointers' that may help, but if you are concerned about a criminal matter, talk to a lawyer before "working with" the police or prosecution.

-If the police are investigating you, they may ask you to give a statement. You may feel that you should provide them with your side of the story. The police may even try to convince you that this is your “opportunity” or “chance” to tell your story. Sometimes, giving the police a statement or answering questions may help you but often it won’t.

-More often than not, the police officer has decided that you are going to be charged and wants to get you to make incriminating statements or confirm certain facts that are not in your favor. ---Any statement you make may be used against you, and any statements the prosecution does not like may be ignored by them.

-The police do not have authority to make deals or grant a suspect leniency in exchange for getting as statement.

-The police have no obligation whatsoever to be honest with you. They can mislead you, lie to you, tell you that they have witnesses or evidence when in truth they do not exist. In fact, these are typical, well-established, legitimate techniques for extracting confessions.

-You may be accused of committing one offense when, in fact, you are guilty of a lesser offense. By confessing to the higher offense, you are throwing away bargaining chips. The prosecutor can try the case with your confession to the higher offense. There is no reason to confess. Don't talk to the police.

-Even for a completely honest and innocent person, it is difficult to tell the same story twice in exactly the same way. That is simple human nature; but to the police and prosecution, it is an inconsistency that is evidence of deceit, and can even be used against you in court.

-Even innocent people may make truthful statements that hurt them. For example, the police may intend to charge you with a crime but have little evidence. Maybe some informant has made up a story about you or the actual perpetrator of a crime has blamed you, or maybe circumstantial evidence makes you a prime suspect. You talk to the police and of course deny the crime but your simple admission that you were in a particular area at a certain time, or that you drive a certain car, or that you possess a gun or were engaged in a struggle, or were angry or had been drinking or…. They can easily be considered as an "admission" of a crucial fact and result in your arrest and prosecution and can make it easier for the prosecutor to get a conviction. The prosecutor has the right to ignore your denial that you committed the crime but use your "admission" of other facts against you at trial.

Many police officers were taught the “Reid Technique” for interviewing suspects. This technique (which is utterly unreliable, by the way) relies on interviewing suspects in certain stages and causing as much anxiety as possible, then relying NOT on what the suspect says, but instead on signs of the suspect’s anxiety and nervousness as signs of deceit and guilt. The questioning moves on through stages that include various forms of coercion designed to extract a confession or at least the admission of incriminating details.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can:

Help you decide whether to talk to the police at all;
Prevent the police from intimidating or coercing you to get you to talk;
Be present if and when you talk to the police, and;
Guide you through this situation, and terminate the interview if necessary.

Here is a video that you might find interesting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6wXkI4t7nuc

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