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When LAPD claims to already have probable cause to arrest, but won't if you "answer a few questions," is that always a lie?

Los Angeles, CA |

Every attorney on here advises to refuse to speak with police without an attorney. But in practice here in Los Angeles, detectives won't just back off when you say that.

I've been told by LAPD detectives, twice over the past decade (neither resulted in charges and the statute of limitations expired) that they "already have probable cause to arrest, but don't like putting people in jail," and then suggest that they won't recommend charges if I cooperate and answer their questions.

On one such encounter, I had an extremely important business meeting to attend in an hour, so I felt I had no choice but to cooperate rather than risk arrest.

But are LAPD detectives ever sincere about "not wanting to send you to jail," or is it always a deceptive attempt to establish probable cause to arrest?

Attorney Answers 6

  1. Best answer

    Lying is an acceptable [and often useful] investigation tactic used by the police. Its impossible to say if the officers are sincere about not wanting to arrest people or if they are being deceptive.

    In order to protect your rights and potentially your liberty, it is in your best interests to assume they are lying to you. You have no way of knowing what they think or what information they have.

    Cops have, or are supposed to have, very little influence over whether or not charges are filed. That decision is supposed to be the prosecutor's decision. [Whether or not that's how it plays out in the real world is another story.] Cops cannot promise you things they cannot deliver in order to get you to talk to them. In other words they can't promise to make sure you're not charged in order to get you to talk to them. However, proving the cops made such a promise to you is very difficult because it would only be your word against theirs. You're better off not to talk in the first place and not have to deal with these issues.

    And remember, arresting people is part of their job. If they really didn't want to arrest someone they probably wouldn't be a cop in the first place.

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  2. Unfortunately, police will say whatever to get some kind of confession or information. The reality is, Miranda Rights don't apply until you're in custody. Police will just claim they are only conducting an "investigation" and no one is under arrest. HOWEVER, they will ask all the same questions and you don't have to answer anything. Exercise your right to an attorney. If they keep pushing the issue, politely tell them that you will refuse to answer any questions until your attorney is present. If they deem it necessary, they will arrest you and then they simply cannot question you without an attorney. Otherwise, if they try to hold you, then you would likely have a valid argument to make if they claim that you were only being held for an investigatory detention since it is clear that they have no reason to arrest you and that you refused to answer any questions.

    If they already have sufficient evidence to arrest you anyway, then why would you speak with them and just add to that evidence without first speaking with an attorney?

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  3. I can't tell you if they are sincere or not, but what I can tell you is that they have a job and that is to "protect and to serve". Their goal is, if a person is guilty (even if the person may think they are innocent) to get a confession out of them.

    An example of this would be a person did not do anything wrong in their mind, but in actuality they helped assist in the commission of the crime, what the detective may do is say, "if you just helped and didn't know, its ok" and then, they would arrest you for aiding and abetting the commission of a crime.

    Their goal is to get a confession, if you cooperate and tell them, you actually did do something, they aren't just going to turn the other cheek and say, "well, he cooperated". They will arrest you.

    If they have enough probable cause, then they don't need your side of the story. They are usually looking for a confession to seal the deal. The police will never tell you if they don't have probable cause, because then they know you won't talk.

    I always advise my clients to remain silent. all ways!

    Good luck and feel free to call me with any questions.

    Elliot Zarabi

  4. No one can tell you the motivation of every detective. However, there job is to make arrests. They are permitted to deceive. I would never assume they are telling the truth. If they intend to arrest and can, they will whether you talk to them or not. But talking to them will only hurt you, so why do it?

  5. Never talk to the police. Not about sports. Not about the weather. Not about girls. No conversation. Politely explain that you have been advised by counsel not to talk to them and if they have PC to arrest, then hook me up.

    They do not care about putting people in jail - it is their come on... they probably majored in it at the academy...don't believe the hype!

  6. It doesn't matter what's in the hearts of the police. You will never know, so it doesn't matter. The risks of not talking to investigators vs the risks of making any statement in a specific case can never be accurately assessed and compared because you never have the necessary facts. So rather than act out of blindness and ignorance as to the facts, you opt for the least dangerous course, the one that preserves your future options and choices: you make NO statement. You can always change your mind later once you have consulted with legal counsel. No matter what the investigators say, you never lose your chance to make a statement in the future.

    My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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