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Why You Shouldn't Talk to Police

What should you do when the police have told you that they would like to speak with you?

Do they want to speak with you because you are suspected of a crime, or simply because you know about a crime? They won't tell you why.

If you are the suspect, you should know that the police have already decided whether or not they will arrest you. They have already decided that they do, or do not, have enough evidence to arrest you. They will not tell you this before trying to speak with you, and here's why:

Most people who are suspected of a crime all have the same instinct: to deny it. Naturally, you want to deny the charge and you must speak to do so. The police, of Talking to the Policecourse, would love it if you confessed, but they know you probably won't. They expect you to deny it. So if you deny it, why is it harmful to you to talk to the cops?

Again, the police expect you to deny it. What they are really after are your statements - your answers to their questions. They know that as you explain why you are not guilty, or how you were not involved, or know nothing about it, and so on - that you will nonetheless give them valuable statements to help them convict you. They want to get you talking.

The police know your instincts. They know that you don't want to be arrested. They know that you want to convince them that you are not guilty. The police use your instincts against you. They will use words they know will make you want to talk. They will prey upon your instincts by saying "we just want to clear a few things up," or "we just have a few questions," or "it doesn't look good if you don't cooperate."

But remember, by choosing to cooperate, you have fallen into their trap. Here's an example:

The police believe you committed a murder by stabbing someone during a robbery. The person who is murdered, let's say, works at a pizza place, and at the end of the day the victim closed the restaurant and was walking to the bank to make a deposit. The police know that you work at that same pizza place. They could show in court that you knew about these daily bank deposits. You deny the charge. You tell the police that "I was there when it happened and I saw the whole thing, but I didn't do the crime." You denied the crime, so what's the problem? Right? ... WRONG!!

What if the police had only very weak evidence that you were at the scene of the crime when it happened? You just gave them their missing piece of evidence. They can now prove in a courtroom - before a jury - that you were at the crime scene when the crime occurred by telling the jury what you said. Before that, all they were able to say was that you knew about the pizza place’s practice of making bank deposits after hours. It would have been difficult for them to get a jury to convict you based on that evidence alone. But now they can establish that you were there when it happened. So even though you will deny the charge at trial, the prosecutor will use the additional facts that you provided earlier when you spoke to police - and then tell the jury that they should convict you because of the circumstantial evidence.

Another example - let's reverse it. Let's say you were there, and the police already have evidence that proves you were there. But they have no proof you did it. And when you answer their questions, you deny that you were there. Now, they still can't prove that you did the crime, but they can prove you're a liar. When the jury is trying to decide on the verdict in your case, the fact that you have lied doesn't look good. These examples apply whether you are actually guilty or innocent of the charge. Don’t think that because you are innocent, that your statements can’t get you in trouble. Whether you're guilty or innocent, you should remain silent.

Or it could be that some little thing you say connects you to some other evidence, or place, or time, or person, that makes you look guilty.

Don't fill in their missing evidence for them with your statements!

Can the police lie to you?

Yes. And they will. They may tell you that your friend already admitted that you, and he, did the crime. They may tell you that they will make sure you get a good deal. Don't believe it. Only the prosecutor in your case can make an offer like that. And you should only accept an offer like that if it is negotiated by your attorney.

Lastly, don't think that because you tell the police that you want to speak with a lawyer that that makes you look guilty. It can't be mentioned in trial that you asked for an attorney. The jury that decides your case will not know that you wanted to speak to a criminal defense attorney or that you remained silent. In summary, when you are being questioned about a crime, silence is the strongest card in your hand. Use it!

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Prosecutor:

The government lawyer who investigates and tries criminal cases. Typically known as a district attorney, state's attorney, or United States attorney.