Should I talk to the cops?
Every day in the United States, police officers and other law enforcement agents interview witnesses and suspects about crimes. This is a big part of their jobs. Quite commonly, I am asked whether a person should talk to the police. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution grants a person an absolute right not to be forced to speak to anyone and the absolute right not to incriminate themselves. In the real world this works much differently. Realistically, most people are intimidated by police officers and people in positions of authority. They carry guns, and have the authority of the government behind them. Not surprisingly, every day people voluntarily give statements to the police and get themselves into trouble that they could have avoided by invoking their right to remain silent under police scrutiny.
What most of these people want to do is explain their side of the events. The police officer's job is to make cases and make arrests, not give you a fair hearing. They are trained in interrogation techniques aimed at getting the answers they want. Additionally, you are at a huge disadvantage when speaking with the police because they do not have to tell you what they know and can legally lie to you about evidence that they have. To make matters worse, you have no idea what other people might have said about you and what you have been accused of.
This all leads to the best advice that I can give to anyone who is approached by the police as a suspect: Politely tell the officers that you appreciate their jobs, but you would like to speak to a lawyer before you answer any questions. If there ever comes a time to tell your side of the story, we can tell it to an impartial party like the judge or a jury. Don't give up your rights. And possibly your freedom.
Two rules to remember:
1. The police are your friend until they think you have violated the law.
2. If it weren’t for snitches and confessions, police and subsequently prosecutors would be much less successful in their work.
If you are the subject of an investigation, do not speak to the police until you have consulted with a qualified criminal defense lawyer.