Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Talk to the police? No way.

They say art imitates life.  Sometimes it is the other way around.  I'm thinking about all those TV crime shows where the suspect stupidly answers police questions only to find himself in deeper trouble.  Fact:  Most criminal defendants are such because they talked to the police.

Let's be clear:  In criminal law, the only time you must answer questions is if you properly have been subpoenaed.  Typically that means personally being served specific paperwork (which you can challenge), called into court, seated in the witness chair, and questioned before a judge.  And even then - if you don't mind being held in contempt and placed in jail for a while - you still cannot be forced to utter a word (at least in this country).

So why do people talk to the police?  One reason is they think they have to (they don't).  Another reason is that they think it will help (it won't).  Beyond those reasons you get into all kinds of psychological theories about why people talk to the police. 

There is no need to complicate things.  Police ask questions when they don't have enough information.  If they don't have enough information, why give more to them?  A lack of information usually means lack of enough reason (or cause) to arrest you, or search your house, or seize evidence from your trunk. 

Will cops make up stuff if you don't give it to them?  Of course.  They are only human (newsflash to many judges, prosecutors and jurors) and prone at least to the same temptations to lie - to look better, or advance, or win - as anyone else.  But a lying cop is the exception.  A lying cop is a sitting duck, defenseless to an inquiring and probing defense team.  A lying cop will lie again, increasing the chances he or she will be caught.  Judges love cops, but not the lying kind.

When police (and judges and prosecutors) are arrested, they don't talk to the police.  Why should anyone else?

Being questioned by police?  Smile and politely insist on a lawyer.  Stick to it.  Don't fall for or submit to anything the police say in response.  They are trained to get you to talk, in all kinds of friendly, reasonable sounding and sneaky ways.  One of my favorite ploys is when the cop says "How can we know what happened unless you tell us your side of the story?"  What?  Whether the cops know "the story" is not a suspect's problem!  By telling them your story odds are you make yourself more of a suspect.

Even if you are "just a witness" you do not have to talk to the police.  And since you don't know what the cops know, or what or who they are looking for, or even whether you are "just a witness" - cops don't have to be honest or answer or tell you anything about their investigations - why would you want to risk digging your own grave?

If you choose to talk to the police, you'll only increase the odds of spending way more time (and money) with a defense lawyer anyway.

Here at Sanderson Law, P.C., we can help if you find yourself in a situation.  Best call us before you talk to the police.  303-444-8846.

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