Should I Talk to the Police?
Have you ever wondered why criminal defense lawyers keep saying, “Don’t talk to the police?”
There are few defense attorney refrains that apply across the board to so many people in so many different situations. It is hard for people to understand – in many situations, it seems counter-intuitive. In the moment, it makes sense to talk to the investigator or the officer at my door.
Defense lawyers have seen this movie before, over and again – most of our clients decide to talk with the police before they come to see us. They give incriminating statements, and they give inconsistent statements. They open themselves up to intimidation and subject themselves to interrogation by trained interviewers who often use methods that have been proven to elicit false confessions.
Why Shouldn’t I Talk to the Police?
There are plenty of reasons why talking to law enforcement may seem like the right thing to do – most of them mistaken.
I Have Nothing to Hide
Many people think that, if they have nothing to hide, it can’t hurt to talk with investigators. Many people are in prison right now, fighting a wrongful conviction, because they believed the same thing.
You don’t know what the police know – police can and do lie during interviews with suspects or witnesses. They lie about:
- What they know;
- Who their target is;
- Physical evidence like DNA or fingerprints;
- Statements made by other people; and
- Whether they can charge you with a crime based on what they know.
If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about when you don’t talk to the police.
I Can Talk Them Out of Charging Me
If police think that you committed a crime, you are not going to talk them out of charging you. They will, however, happily let you try as they interrogate you.
If police have probable cause to charge you, they are going to serve a warrant on you no matter what you say. They are looking for you to make incriminating or inconsistent statements as additional evidence or probable cause before they put the cuffs on you.
If they don’t have probable cause to charge you, you can easily give them probable cause during an interrogation. Even if you don’t make incriminating statements, you don’t know what other people have said, true or not, that contradicts your statements.
I Can Get a Better Deal if I Cooperate
They might even be telling you this. You need to know that police officers and investigators have no authority to make deals – only the prosecutor can do that, and they are not obligated to take recommendations from the officer or investigator in your case.
In many cases, you will get a better deal (or have defenses at trial) if you don’t talk to investigators – do not assume you are helping yourself unless you have talked it through with your criminal defense lawyer.
If I Don’t Talk to Them, They Will Think I’m Guilty
If you tell an investigator you want your attorney before you answer any questions, they won’t think you are guilty because of it. They will think you are smart…
No matter what they say to you, police know that you have the right to counsel before answering their questions. They don’t want you to talk to an attorney first, because that makes their job (putting you in jail and getting a conviction) harder.
They are Threatening to Charge Me if I Don’t Talk
Call your defense lawyer. Now.
Odds are, they are going to charge you either way. A situation where you would be charged if you don’t talk, but you would not be charged if you do talk is exceedingly rare.
One common way for police to get people to talk or to get people to become a witness is by threatening them with criminal charges – don’t be intimidated, and get your attorney on board immediately.
When Should I Talk to the Police?
After you have talked it through with your criminal defense lawyer, you have told your lawyer everything about the situation, and your lawyer recommends that you meet with investigators with your lawyer present.
There are circumstances where you will benefit from cooperation, but they are few and far between – most of our clients clearly would have benefited from not talking before they met with us.
Criminal Defense and Investigations Lawyer in Charleston, SC
Remember that “silence can be misinterpreted, but never misquoted.”
If you believe that you are under investigation, or if law enforcement is contacting you and asking for an interview, contact Charleston criminal defense attorney Grant B. Smaldone now for a free consultation and review of your case by calling at (843) 808-2100 or by filling out our online contact form.