"You're under arrest!"

Whether you're arrested for murder one or DUI, how you handle being interrogated by the police can and likely will determine the eventual outcome of your case. The single most important thing to remember is: you have the right to remain silent. SO REMAIN SILENT! Don't talk, and ask for a lawyer immediately. Asking for a lawyer USED TO stop the interrogation then and there. A very recent Supreme Court case, Montejo v. Louisiana, now allows police to keep asking. BUT DON'T ANSWER THEM. When the police tell you that anything you say can and will be used against you in court, they're not joking. They mean ANYTHING. There's usually nothing you can say that will help you wiggle out of your situation, especially if your situation involves 10 kilograms of something illegal in your car's trunk. Getting you to give up those confessions and admissions is what the police do. And they're good at it. Here are some of the most common police interrogation tactics:


"Do you know why I stopped you?"

This is the classic traffic-cop greeting. Like so many other police questions, it's a trick. If you say "no," the officer writes on the ticket: "Driver unaware of stop sign." If you say "I guess I was going a little fast there," it goes down as, "Driver admits exceeding posted limit." Either way, you lose. The only safe answer is, "Please tell me, officer." But you have to say it politely. "Suppose you tell me, pal" is just going to cost you grief.


"You're not a suspect or anything. We just have a few questions."

Except that you ARE a suspect, or they wouldn't be asking. And if you're not, they'll see if something you tell them turns you into one.


"If you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about."

The police are asking you questions. You have something to worry about.


"This is your chance to clear things up. Otherwise, all we have to put into our report is her side of the story."

What the police mean is, "this is your chance to incriminate yourself." If there's a side to your story (and there's no side to those 10 kilograms), the place to tell it is in court, not to the police, and the proper person to tell it is your lawyer.


"You can talk to us right here right now, or we can take you downtown."

This is the classic "NYPD Blue"/"Law and Order" tactic. What you should bear in mind is that the police can't take you downtown or anywhere else unless they're arresting you. And if the police had probable cause to arrest you, you'd be on your way downtown right now. In other words, this one's ALWAYS a bluff.


"If you don't answer our questions, we can charge you with obstruction of justice."

Another one that's always a bluff. No one HAS TO talk to the police. You have the right to remain silent, and the police know it. They just hope you don't.


"Better talk now. Your buddy told us everything, and if you don't tell us your side. you'll go down for the whole thing."

By now, you should be completely aware that THE POLICE ARE ALLOWED TO LIE TO YOU during an interrogation. They're not required to tell you the truth, and they don't. They can even tell you that you failed your lie detector test when you actually passed it! (Never take a lie detector test.) So when the police tell you that your crimie rolled over on you, or that they found your prints on the gun, or that an eyewitness puts you at the scene, they're probably lying to see how you'll react. And even if they're not, you won't do yourself any good by confessing.


"This is your last chance to help yourself. Once you're lawyered up, we can't do anything more for you."

They can't do anything for you even BEFORE you lawyer up. The police can't cut deals and make plea bargains. Only the prosecutor can do that, and the prosecutor isn't allowed to talk to you without your attorney being present. What the police really want to do for you is to induce you to incriminate yourself so thoroughly that there will be little your lawyer can do to defend you.


"The truth shall set you free."

Not in the criminal justice system, it won't! (Especially if the truth involves how much you paid for those 10 keys....) When the police come at you with questions, the only correct answer is, "I don't want to make a statement, and I want to speak to an attorney." Say it as soon as you're arrested, say it politely but firmly, and repeat it as often as you have to. Any other answer can be used against you, and it probably will.