A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT — NEVER SPEAK WITH THE POLICE — EVER!
Countless times each week, people call me who are up to their eyeballs in legal problems. I listen to them describe the situation, and very often they don’t just have a civil dispute with someone, they also have a criminal issue. They are the target of a criminal investigation or charges have already been filed against them.
Obviously, they have to navigate a minefield of legal liability where one misstep could backfire and have long-lasting repercussions.
If ever there was a situation where they needed a lawyer, this is it.
Unfortunately, many times, by the time they get to me it’s too late to help. Why? Because they already blabbed their side of the story to the police.
If you’re fortunate to be reading this post, this is a gentle reminder that you do not have to speak to the police, ever.
No matter who you are — whether you are rich or poor, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, left-handed, right-handed, educated or illiterate; whether you have never had a parking ticket in your life, or whether you just murdered 36 people in cold blood on video — you have no obligation to speak with police, whatsoever, if they try to question you.
This is not negotiable.
This principle is enshrined in the Untied States Constitution’s 5th Amendment, which explains that a person’s right against self incrimination shall (not “may,” but “shall”) NOT be violated.
There is NO upside to speaking with the police and government agents — ever. I have never read a police report in my whole life which said, at the end, “You know, after hearing from this guy or gal, and after hearing his or story, no charges should be filed, and this person is a model citizen.”
I have never seen such a police report because they don’t exist. Police reports always give the impression that a person is an axe murderer, regardless of whether they are parked one minute overtime at a parking meter after seeing their neurosurgeon for a follow-up appointment, after having just had a tumor removed.
The most important principle to keep in mind is a very simple one: if the police had enough to arrest you, they would have already done so, and would not be asking to speak with you. Put another way, you are the last link in the chain. They need YOU to talk. If the police are speaking with you, it’s because they don’t have enough evidence already!
I cannot tell you how many cases I’ve handled where, before hiring me, the client has sung like a bird to the police. That can certainly be dealt with (and I’ve certainly beaten cases where the client did talk), but it makes the job of defending someone that much harder.
So do yourself a favor: if you are ever requested by the police and asked to speak to them, give them this one respectful answer, “You know, I’m not trying to be obnoxious, but I’d rather remain silent, not speak with you, and have you contact my lawyer.”
Then, have the name and telephone number of your lawyer available. Commit it to memory. Never forget it. Because you’re going to need it if you’re arrested and you evoke your right to counsel. (I’ve shown up at police stations in the middle of the night because a family member called me, and the client could not stop the questioning because he did not know my name!)
But the police won’t stop there, though — not by a longshot. You’ll then hear, in a sort of mopey voice, the police officers say, “Well, ok, this was your chance to tell us your side of the story and to make a clean break and just do the right thing.”
As it happens, this is just about the only time in my life when I ever tell the clients to do the “wrong” thing, which is not to talk, no matter the pressure the police put on you. If you can do this one thing — simply and respectfully maintain your right to silence, regardless of how counter-intuitive it feels not to speak with the police (we are all taught to respect authority, right) — you will have done yourself a world of good, and you will have then done the RIGHT thing for you.
Photo: Police -Alex Young/Upsplash