Tips on talking to the Police
Should you speak with police?I'd like to say 'NO' and leave it at that but unfortunately far to many clients ignore that advice and speak with police. A crucial thing that many people forget is that under both the Pennsylvania Constitution and the U.S. constitution you have a right not to incriminate yourself. I often tell clients that it is rare that you can talk yourself out of an arrest but a quite common that you can talk yourself right into a conviction. The police may use several different tactics to get you to talk, some are described below.
What if the Police want me to come down to the Police Dept. and speak with them?In the event the police ask you to come to their location and speak with them about an event in which you may have been involved they may tell you several things such as " We just need to clear this up" or "Where not out to get you we just have to close the books on this case" or " We don't want to Jam you up, we think this was just an innocent mistake or misunderstanding"
DON'T BE FOOLED! The police want to lock you into a statement so they can arrest you or otherwise charge you with a crime. Police are not in the business of "just clearing up innocent mistakes" They are in the business of solving crimes and making arrests.
If you are contacted by law enforcement to speak with them, the first thing you need to do is retain qualified criminal defense counsel. Let the attorney determine whether it is in your interest to speak with police. The attorney should be the only contact with police thereafter. It is a myth that "If you did nothing wrong that you have nothing to fear.
The Police threatened to charge me or my family with Obstruction of Justice if we don't talk to them?You cannot, I repeat you cannot be convicted of a crime for refusing to speak with police. This is a ploy law enforcement uses to scare people into talking to them and giving them information they would not otherwise give to police. You have a constitutional right not to give a statement to law enforcement. If you are arrested you need to give biographical information such as name, address etc.but you don't have to give a statement or "explain" what happened nor does anyone else.
This does not mean that you can lie to police, you can't. This does not mean that you can prevent an arrest by helping someone hide or evade arrest you can't, but not speaking with police is not a crime. If you or a family member are threatened with such immediately call your attorney and let them speak with police, its not likely you will be bothered again after that.
The Police told me it would be to my benefit to speak with them.Well, it may or it may not. One thing is for sure it will be to the benefit of law enforcement if you speak with them. There are sometimes when it would be to your benefit to speak with police. There are times when law enforcement has multiple suspects and they have the information to charge them and likely get a conviction but they just need a bit more information to really cement their case. Or they have enough information to nail you but not another suspect. In such cases the first person to talk will likely get the best deal. In such cases the best deal could be anything from probation to avoiding the death penalty.
HOWEVER; in such cases the decision to talk to the police should only be made after consultation with and representation by experienced and qualified criminal defense counsel. Only qualified counsel can evaluate the allegation and evidence properly to determine if it is to your benefit to talk to police. In short you need counsel to make this decision.
The Police Lie and use trickery.For those that remember the Gomer Pyle Show, Surprise, Surprise, Surprise.
Why do the police lie? Because they can. They are permitted to deceive and mislead suspects in the investigation of a crime. They are not permitted lie under oath and while testifying in court or when filling out reports and affidavits but they can lie when interviewing a suspect. For example they may tell you that another suspect confessed and said that you planned the crime, when no such thing was said. They may tell you they have a witness that IDed you, finger prints or video of you at a certain location, when in fact no video, prints or witness exists. But you don't know that and it may prompt you to say something to save your bacon or even just confess. They can tell you that if you confess they will get you probation, but often the crime only calls for probation.
Please understand the police don't lie because they are bad people but because its part of their job, like your mom lied about Santa.
The Miranda MythIf I had a dollar for every time a client thought law enforcement could not use their statement against them because they were never mirandized I'd be a very wealthy man. First if the police don't question you they don't have to mirandize you. In Pennsylvania you only have to be read the miranda warnings against self incrimination if you are subject to a custodial interrogation. Meaning you are not free to leave. This could take place if you are in hand cuffs on the street, in the back of a squad car or anywhere you can't leave. Very often the police will have enough to charge you but want your statement so they will ask you to come down to the police dept. They will put you in an interview room and be very pleasant to you. They will thank you for coming in, offer you a soda and tell you that your not under arrest and are free to leave at anytime. Then after you spill your guts to them they will charge you and use your statement against you because it was a NON custodial interrogation.