Advice from experienced criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor about advisability of talking to police.
What does the Supreme Court say about talking to the police?
Justice Robert Jackson, Nuremberg Prosecutor, Supreme Court Justice: "Any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to the police under any circumstances." Watts v. Indiana, 338 U.S. 49
What might the police try to get me to talk?
Types of things the police might tell you to get you to talk to them: - "If you don't answer my questions, I'll have no choice but to arrest you. Do you want to go to jail?" (They will arrest you either way.) - "You're not a suspect - just help us understand what happened here and then you can go." (They will arrest you after you talk.) - "If you don't answer my questions, I'm going to charge you with resisting arrest." (They will arrest you either way) - "All of your friends have cooperated and we let them go home. You're the only one left." (They will arrest you either way.) - "You are just here voluntarily and we appreciate you helping us with this. You are free to leave at any time." (If you try to leave, they arrest you.)
Cops are sneaky and there are lots of ways they can trick you into talking. They are allowed, even trained, to lie to you.
- - Good Cop/ Bad Cop: Bad cop is aggressive and menacing, while good cop is nice, friendly, and familiar (usually good cop is the same race and gender as you). The idea is bad cop scares you so bad you are desperately looking for a friend. Good cop is that friend, until you are done talking.- - The cops will tell you that your friends ratted on you so that you will snitch on them. Meanwhile, they tell your friends the same thing. If anyone breaks and talks, you all go down.- - The cops will tell you that they have all the evidence they need to convict you and that if you "take responsibility" and confess the judge will be impressed by your honesty and go easy on you. What they really mean is: "we don't have enough evidence yet, please confess."
More common tactics (and lies)
- - The cops may show you something and claim it is your fingerprints, or tell you they have your fingerprints. (Lie)- - The cops may tell you that they have you on video committing a crime. There may or may not be a video. It may or may not show you.
But I'm Innocent!
Both the innocent and the guilty can end up in prison, in part because of police questioning. There are real cases, not all that rare, of people convicted on the basis of false confessions or use of their truthful statements to prove something other than what was meant.
Police are human beings.
They are subject to all the frailties of the rest of us. Putting on a badge does not make them perfect. They hear what they expect to hear and see what they expect to see. Sometimes that is something other than what you say.
They may be doing their best to be fair, but still record you as saying something that convicts you. Talk to your lawyer - not the police!