Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why You Should Never Talk to the Police (Without a Lawyer)

Art by Netow
We all know that we have the right to remain silent and that anything we say to the police may be used against us. But what if you're talking to the police or a federal official and you're completely innocent? Do you need a lawyer? Should you bother?

Yesterday I wrote about Paul Lukas who asserted his rights and refused to answer a customs official's question, "Why where you in China?" and then was detained. That got me thinking about the broader question: When and how should one answer a police officer's (or federal investigator's) questions.

The inescapable conclusion is that you should always, definitively, unequivocally never, ever answer an investigator's questions without talking to a lawyer. Why? Watch the talk from a defense lawyer and a police officer in the video below. What you say not only can be used against you, but probably will be used against you, even if you're innocent.

Here's just one eye-opening for-instance from this video, which shows how what you think of as being factual and exonerating can be used to hang you:  Let's say you're being questioned by the police about a murder. At some point, during the three hour interrogation, you say to the police, "I've never shot a gun. I've never even touched a gun." Sounds pretty unequivocal, doesn't it? At trial, the prosecutor asks the officer who questioned you, "Was there anything surprising that the defendant said during questioning?" The police officer answers, "Yes. He said, 'I've never even touched a gun'." "What was surprising about that?" the prosecutor asks.  The testifying officer responds, "I never mentioned that the murder weapon was a gun. The defendant just blurted that out." Guilty.

Even a simple slip of the tongue, something remembered incorrectly, can result in your being prosecuted. Lying to a federal investigator, even if if you haven't been read your rights or it's a seemingly innocuous conversation, is a federal crime.

It never turns out well for somebody who's under investigation to talk to the police without a lawyer present. Watch this video. It may be the best civics lesson you ever receive.

1 comment:

  1. Good advise, especially in today's crazy world.