“The police are at my door. They want to talk to me. They told me I am not a suspect. I did absolutely nothing wrong. I have nothing to worry about. They can’t arrest me or do any harm to me if I did nothing wrong, right?”
“But I committed no crime. Took nobody’s life. I didn’t even see anything criminal happen. I don’t know anyone who may have been there. I was 173 miles away when it happened. I don’t know any of the facts except from what others told me. I cannot possible be harmed, right?!”
Again, I am sorry to tell you, but you’re wrong.
What people do not realize is what they don’t know actually can hurt them. If you don’t believe me, listen to the words of former United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, “[A]ny lawyer worth his [or her] salt will tell the [client] in no uncertain terms to make no statement to the police under any circumstances.” Watts v. Indiana, 338 U.S. 49 (1949) (emphasis added).
Let us look at the situation a little more closely.
If the police ever ask you to come in to the station “just to chat” or are stopping by “because they only have a couple questions for you” — that means one of two things:
Does that clear the picture up? I sure hope so.
There is absolutely no reason for the police to want to have any discussion with you unless they know something that you (probably) don’t. May be your name was mentioned during a discussion with another potential suspect, or perhaps someone is trying to frame you, or, worse yet, you look like the person who was present on the scene and an eyewitness made a mistake in identity. This kind of thing happens all the time. And innocent people end up in custody as a result.
There is no reason to talk to the police especially if you’re innocent.
There is no reason to talk to the police; especially if you’re innocent.
Here are the top ten reasons why you should not talk to the police:*
REASON #1: Talking to the police CANNOT and WILL NOT help you.
Talking to the police cannot make any difference. Nobody can “talk their way out of” an arrest. No matter how “savvy” or intelligent you think you might be, you will not convince them that you are innocent. And any ‘good’ statements that may help you that you tell the police cannot be introduced into evidence because of hearsay rules. It’s a lose-lose situation; don’t talk to the police.
REASON #2: Even if you’re guilty, and you want to confess and get it off your chest, you still shouldn’t talk to the police.
There is plenty of time to confess and admit guilt later. Why rush the inevitable? First, hire an attorney. Let them do their work, and may be you will win your case. It is much harder to win when there is a confession. For example, do you know what happens if the cop cannot be located and there is no confession? The case gets dismissed! (It’s not a universal rule, but it’s more common than you might think.) Don’t talk to the police.
REASON #3: Even if you are innocent, it’s easy to tell some little white lie in the course of a statement.
When people assert their innocence, they sometimes exaggerate their statements and tell a little white lie on accident. That same lie could be later used to destroy your credibility at trial. Don’t talk to the police.
REASON #4: Even if you are innocent, and you only tell the truth, and you don’t tell any little white lies, it is possible to give the police some detail of information that can be used to convict you.
If you make any statement — it could later be used against. E.g. “I did not kill the guy. I was not around the area when it happened. I don’t have a gun. I never owned a gun. I never liked the guy, but, hell, who did?” Bingo. We just found your incriminating statement: “I never liked the guy.” Don’t talk to the police.
REASON #5: Even if you were innocent, and you only tell the truth, and you don’t tell any little white lies, and you don’t give the police any information that can be used against you to prove motive or opportunity, you still should not talk to the police because the possibility that the police might not recall your statement with 100% accuracy.
Nobody has a perfect memory. That includes law enforcement. Don’t talk to the police.
REASON #6: Even if you’re innocent, and you only tell the truth, and your entire statement is videotaped so that the police don’t have to rely on their memory, an innocent person can still make some innocent assumption about a fact or state some detail about the case they overheard on the way to the police station, and the police will assume that they only way the suspect could have known that fact or that detail was if he was, in fact, guilty.
If you overhear a fact from someone else and later adopt it as your own, it can be used to crucify you at trial. Don’t talk to the police.
REASON #7: Even if you’re innocent, and you only tell the truth in your statement, and you give the police no information that can be used against you, and the whole statement is videotaped, a suspect’s answers can still be used against him if the police (through no fault of their own) have any evidence that any of the suspect’s statements are false (even if they are really true).
Honest mistakes by witnesses can land you in jail. Why take the risk? Don’t talk to the police.
REASON #8: The police do not have authority to make deals or grant a suspect leniency in exchange for getting as statement.
Law enforcement personnel do not have authority to make deals, grant you immunity, or negotiate plea agreements. The only entity with that authority is the County or Commonwealth Attorney in state court and the U.S. Attorney in federal court. The officers will tell you they do, but they are lying. They have a carte blanche to lie. Don’t talk to the police.
REASON #9: Even if a suspect is guilty, and wants to confess, there may be mitigating factors which justify a lesser charge.
You may be accused of committing one offense when, in fact, you are guilty of a lesser offense. By confessing to the higher offense, you are throwing away bargaining chips. The prosecutor can try the case with your confession to the higher offense. There is no reason to confess. Don’t talk to the police.
REASON #10: Even for a completely honest and innocent person, it is difficult to tell the same story twice in exactly the same way.
If trial is the first time you tell your story, then there is no other statement by you to contradict any of your facts. However, if you have told your story twice, once at trial, and once to the police, you are probably going to mess some facts up. It’s human nature. A good cross examination by a prosecutor will tear you apart. Don’t talk to the police.
*Taken from a video lecture by Professor Dwayne. The video is reproduced in full below.
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