Should You Speak With The Police?

Has a detective either called or left their card on your door asking you to speak with them about an incident?  Or, has a detective asked if you’ll come down to the station “to clear things up”?  You’re not told you’ll be arrested.  The detective sounds reasonable and sincere.  The inevitable question to me is “should I speak with them?”  My answer almost always is a resounding “No.”  Let me explain why.

The police want to speak with you because they have evidence indicating to them you’ve committed a crime.   No matter how innocent you are, you most likely will not talk yourself out of being arrested.  Even when in doubt, the police often exhibit a “arrest now and sort it out later” mentality.  This explains why some people who are arrested subsequently have their cases dropped.

As you’ve heard repeatedly, you have a constitutional right to remain silent.  Don’t be afraid to exercise your rights.    In almost all circumstances, talking with the police will not only fail to prevent your arrest, but it will make your case worse.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve represented people who made my job much more difficult because they naively thought they’d just go in to explain what really happened and they’d then be free to leave.  Instead, they were arrested at the conclusion of the interview and, worse yet, they inadvertently strengthened the State’s case against them in the process.

Here’s a little secret about what to expect if you do talk with the police:  they can, and will lie to you about witnesses, the evidence and anything else they think of to get you all twisted up and saying things you never intended to say and that are simply not true.  And, that’s all legal and how you respond and what you say in your conversation with the police can and will be used against you in court.

And, let me dispel any notion that you’ll look guilty if you decline to speak with the detectives and instead ask to speak with a lawyer.  That’s simply untrue.  In fact, instead of looking guilty, you’ll look smart and prepared.

Detectives are highly trained in various interviewing techniques that are designed to elicit confessions. Those techniques involve deceit, false promises, physical force, threats, sleep deprivation, bathroom deprivation, hunger, fear of jail, fear of DCF taking your children, and other forms of psychological coercion.

These techniques are so effective that they often cause innocent people to confess to crimes that they didn’t commit just to get the interrogation to stop. After mistaken identification, false confession is perhaps the second most reason for wrongful convictions in the United States.

Fortunately, in this country, you have the constitutional “right to remain silent”, also known as the “Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.”  And, your refusal to speak with police can’t be used against you in a criminal case.

So, if the police want to talk with you about a criminal matter, exercise your constitutional rights.   Never speak with police who are investigating you other than to advise them you want to speak with a lawyer.  Once you do that, the police are required by law to stop any further attempts to question you until you’ve had an opportunity to speak with your lawyer.

If you or a loved one has been asked to speak with police, you should immediately contact a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer who can properly advise you on how best to proceed.  In many instances, your lawyer can determine whether a warrant has been issued for your arrest so you can voluntarily surrender into custody.  Doing so can spare you the embarrassment of a surprise arrest at work or in public and you can often arrange to be released immediately without spending the night, or longer, in jail.

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