What should you do if the police try to speak with you? Have you ever stopped to consider what you would do if you were suddenly faced with the prospect of being arrested and being asked by the police to give a statement? Most law-abiding citizens never consider such circumstances because they do not foresee the possibility of ever having problems with the law. Unfortunately, life is not predictable and many people find themselves in compromising positions where the police will attempt to speak with them. There are many reasons why it may be in your best interests not to speak with the police, until and unless you have first spoken with an attorney.
There may be NO CASE against you UNLESS you give a statement:
First of all, the police may not be able to make a case against you without your statement. It is a little known fact that obtaining a confession or incriminating statements from the accused is the NUMBER ONE tool on which law enforcement officers rely in making their cases.
Seventy percent of all criminal cases filed by District Attorneys’ offices have sufficient evidence for filings ONLY because the accused made a statement to the police. Consequently, police officers are specially trained to illicit statements from people accused of crimes. They are sent to special schools where they receive training on how to use psychology and to employ tactics to get people to speak. In case you were not aware, it is perfectly within the bounds of the law for officers to use such tactics in order to obtain a statement.
The officer ALWAYS wins:
When you are accused of a crime, giving your “side of the story” to the police is usually the WRONG thing to do. As the popular, former prosecutor and noted author – Vincent Bugliosi once wrote, getting a statement from the accused almost always favors the prosecution.
Once the Government has your version of the incident, you are pinned down as to certain facts and the Government will spend countless hours tearing your story apart. Prosecutors are taught to use the statements of defendants in trial, even when they are self-serving. Why? The statements are usually more helpful, than harmful, to the Government’s case. As the Miranda warnings state, “Your statement CAN and WILL be used against you.”
Miranda warnings are NOT always required:
Contrary to popular belief, the officers are not required to give you the Miranda warnings prior to speaking with you in all situations. Miranda warnings are only required when the police have you in a “custodial” situation, that is “you are not free to leave.” Therefore, there are many situations where the police can contact you and speak to you without being required to give you the Miranda warnings. For example, officers frequently make telephone calls to people suspected of crimes and obtain voluntary statements WITHOUT having to give Miranda warnings. Incidentally, these phone conversations are many times lawfully recorded. Officers frequently ask people to “Drop by the Station and give a statement,” or they show up at your home or business to “talk to you.” As long as the Court finds you were “free to leave,” the police are not required to give you your Miranda warning you before speaking to you.
Speaking to an office can ruin an otherwise good defense:
Experienced defense attorneys know the value of going to trial when their client’s have not spoken, since the Government’s case may not be very strong. When the accused has not provided the police with a statement, his or her attorney has the opportunity to analyze the Government’s case before making opening and closing statements or deciding if a particular witness should testify. Conversely, when you speak to the police you will probably eliminate most of the defenses your attorney can employ on your behalf.
If the officer’s motives are innocent, your statement can wait:
Assume the police wish to speak with you as a “witness.” The officer tells you he “does not consider you as a suspect,” but he believes “You possess information that may be helpful in his investigation.” Before speaking to him, ask yourself, “What’s the hurry?” In most circumstances, the officer can wait long enough for you to consult with an attorney. Since he is contacting you after the incident, there is no emergency that requires your statement. If the motives of the officer as innocent as they sound, he should be willing to wait until you have consulted with an attorney.
It is your Constitutional right NOT TO SPEAK:
Many people who are aware of their rights not to speak to the police waive their Constitutional rights because they are “afraid of looking guilty.” Believe it or not, many police officers and prosecutors accused of crimes (and who should know their rights better than the rest of us) frequently waive their rights and end up ruining the defenses they may have had.
When you find yourself subject to questioning, NEVER hesitate to exercise your Constitutional rights. Remember, exercising your Constitutional rights can NEVER be used against you in a criminal case. If you find yourself in a situation where you do not wish to speak to the police, say the following: “I wish to speak with you, but first I will need to speak with my attorney to ensure my rights are protected.”