As a Broward defense attorney, I generally advise people never to talk to police without a lawyer present. This is true whether you’re innocent or not. Even those who don’t believe they are suspected of a crime should use great caution.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution prevents anyone from being compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself or herself. You have the right to remain silent. You need to tell them your name, but you don’t need to answer questions about where you’re going, where you came from, what you’re doing, where you live, whether you’re a U.S. citizen or here lawfully. You shouldn’t lie or run. Stay as calm as possible. But be crystal clear that you’re exercising your right to silence. Request a lawyer before you agree to answer any other questions.
Some people are concerned this makes them seem guilty. Especially when they’ve done nothing wrong, it can be tempting just to talk. After all, police can be intimidating and these encounters can cause all kinds of anxiety and most people just want it over with. But here are 6 reasons you really need to refrain from talking to the police at all without your lawyer present.
- It’s not going to help you. It really doesn’t matter how street-smart or loquacious you are: You aren’t going to talk your own way out of an arrest an officer really wants to make. What you might do is give them more ammunition against you, but you won’t be helping yourself.
- You might make a mistake while explaining something that the police can interpret as a lie. Interrogations are stressful. When people are under a lot of stress, there may be a greater likelihood of telling a white lie. That can quickly be twisted against you and you’ll find yourself in over your head.
- If you do lie, that could result in a conviction. In Florida, as in several other states, lying to a police officer who is conducting an investigation of a crime scene or a potential crime scene is a criminal act in itself. Knowingly providing false statements to a law enforcement officer can land you in jail on misdemeanor or even felony charges. It’s so much better if you simply do not say anything at all, at least without the benefit of your Broward defense attorney by your side.
- The officer might forget or misremember something you say. Is the entire session being faithfully recorded? How do you know that? What if something happens to that recording or video? If there is no tape, what guarantee do you have that the officer is going to remember what you say with 100 percent accuracy? How many other investigations are they conducting? How many other witnesses are they questioning in a given day? Police officers are human too, and if there’s no assurance they can recall your words accurately, best not to give them any words to recall.
- You might be tricked into saying the wrong thing. Remember: Cops are under no obligation to tell you the truth. Confessions are the “gold standard” when it comes to being an indicator of guilt. They’re tough to retract (especially without destroying your credibility), and sometimes they can even override other very compelling evidence. Yet people falsely confess more often than you’d think. An analysis published in Science Magazine last year examined why people confess to crimes they did not commit. Researchers found there was intense pressure anytime there are false witnesses involved. Coercion is a major problem in police interrogations.
- There is never a need to rush talking to the police. If you haven’t been arrested for anything, you should be in no rush to discuss anything with police. And if you have been arrested, you should be rushing to talk to your lawyer, who can help you weigh the benefit of offering a statement. If it’s to your advantage, we can use it as leverage. Or, we might advise you to simply stay quiet. After all, your talking with them only ever gives them more evidence.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
This psychologist explains why people confess to crimes they didn’t commit, June 19, 2019, By Douglas Starr, Science Magazine