25 Sep 23

Should I speak to the police if I am arrested?

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Last Updated on: 2nd October 2023, 05:33 pm

Should I Speak to the Police If I Am Arrested?

Getting arrested can be a scary and overwhelming experience. Your mind might race with questions like “What are my rights?” and “Should I speak to the police?”

It’s normal to feel confused about what to do. But it’s important to know that you have the constitutional right to remain silent if you are arrested. Anything you say to the police can potentially be used against you, so it’s usually best to avoid talking until you have a lawyer present.

Why You Shouldn’t Speak to Police After an Arrest

There are a few key reasons why it’s generally not a good idea to speak to the police if you’ve been arrested:

  • You have the right to remain silent. The 5th Amendment protects you from self-incrimination. You are not legally required to answer any questions from the police, even if you’re under arrest.
  • Anything you say can be used against you, even if you’re innocent. The police are building a case, so information you provide may be used out of context.
  • It’s easy to accidentally incriminate yourself. You may admit to something without realizing it could be incriminating.
  • Police interrogations can be manipulative. Officers may try to trick or pressure you into talking.
  • Talking to police is unlikely to help your case. The police are not on your side, so anything you say is unlikely to help you.
  • You may not have all the facts. You can’t defend yourself if you don’t know what evidence the police have.
  • Mistakes happen. Stress and confusion could lead you to misremember details or provide inaccurate information.

For all these reasons, it’s usually in your best interest to avoid talking to the police until you have a lawyer representing you.

What to Do If You’re Arrested

If you find yourself under arrest, here are some tips on how to handle the situation:

  1. Remain calm and cooperative. Don’t resist arrest or obstruct officers. Keep your hands visible.
  2. Clearly state “I wish to remain silent.” You do not have to answer any questions.
  3. Ask for a lawyer immediately and repeat your request for counsel.
  4. Do not sign anything or make any written statements without a lawyer.
  5. If questioned further, simply repeat “I wish to speak to a lawyer.”
  6. Avoid casual conversation or chit chat. Anything you say may be used against you.
  7. Consider writing down details about the arrest immediately after. Get badge numbers, patrol car info, witness details.

By promptly and unambiguously stating your intention to remain silent and have counsel, you protect your rights and minimize any possibility of self-incrimination.

Exceptions Where Talking May Help

While remaining silent until you have legal counsel is generally the wisest approach, there are some exceptions where talking to the police could potentially help your case:

  • If you need emergency medical care and are unable to ask for it.
  • If you are asked for basic identifying information like your name and address.
  • If you are pulled over for a minor traffic violation and want to briefly explain the situation.
  • If you have an affirmative defense and clearly stating it may prevent charges from being filed.
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However, it’s still smart to avoid providing any information beyond what is absolutely necessary in these scenarios. And if you have any doubts, it’s better to err on the side of remaining silent until you can speak to a lawyer.

Speaking Through a Lawyer

Although directly talking to the police is rarely advisable after an arrest, you may benefit from providing information through your defense attorney. An experienced lawyer understands how your statements may be used and can prepare you to provide helpful information in your defense while avoiding self-incrimination.

Some ways a lawyer may facilitate communication with law enforcement:

  • Helping you arrange an interview on your terms, with counsel present.
  • Advising you on which questions to answer or avoid during an interview.
  • Clarifying your testimony before it is provided.
  • Providing written statements instead of interviews.
  • Negotiating “proffer sessions” where limited immunity is offered.

With an attorney’s guidance, it may be possible to share your side of the story without jeopardizing your case. But this is only advisable with experienced legal representation.

Understanding Your Miranda Rights

When you are arrested, the police must inform you of your constitutional rights per the Supreme Court’s Miranda v. Arizona ruling. This includes advising you of your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present during questioning.

Your Miranda rights include:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say can and will be used against you.
  • You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.

Some key things to know about your Miranda rights:

  • The police must clearly explain your rights before any interrogation begins after an arrest.
  • You may choose to waive your rights and speak to the police, but you are not required to.
  • Police are only required to read your rights if you are in custody and being interrogated.
  • Your rights still apply even if they are not read to you.
  • Any statements made before being informed of your rights may be inadmissible.
  • The police cannot intimidate or coerce you into waiving your rights.

If the police fail to properly explain your rights, any information you provide may not be allowed as evidence against you. That’s why it’s critical to invoke your right to silence and counsel immediately, before substantive questioning begins.

Speaking to Police Pre-Arrest

If the police want to speak to you but you have not been arrested or detained, you generally do not have to talk. However, refusing to cooperate or fleeing may raise suspicions.

If officers simply ask for basic identifying information, it’s usually fine to provide your name and address. But for any substantive questioning, it’s still wise to avoid talking without a lawyer present.

You can politely but firmly tell officers:

  • “I do not wish to speak without an attorney present.”
  • “I will not answer any questions without legal counsel.”
  • “Am I free to leave, or am I being detained?”

This invokes your rights without being uncooperative. If you are detained or arrested, resume remaining silent until you have legal counsel.

Handling Police Interrogations

If you are subjected to police interrogation after arrest, here are some tips to protect your rights:

  • Remain calm. Do not lose your temper or become argumentative.
  • Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately.
  • Don’t give any explanations, excuses, or stories. Anything you say may be used against you.
  • If questioning continues, keep repeating that you want to speak to your attorney.
  • Do not sign any written statements without counsel present and reviewing.
  • Be aware of common interrogation techniques like good cop/bad cop routines.
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The police may try various approaches to get you to talk or elicit a confession. But you have the absolute right to cut off all questioning by clearly asking for a lawyer.

False Confessions Are More Common Than You Think

It may seem unlikely that anyone would confess to a crime they didn’t commit, but false confessions happen more often than you would expect. Some reasons this occurs:

  • Duress from aggressive or lengthy interrogations.
  • Language and comprehension barriers.
  • Juveniles not understanding their rights.
  • Mental disabilities or impairments.
  • Misunderstanding the situation or evidence.
  • Trying to protect the real perpetrator.
  • Seeking notoriety.

Once you make a false confession, it’s exceedingly difficult to undo the damage. That’s why it’s critical to avoid talking until you have legal counsel.

Recordings and Video Interrogations

If you are questioned in a room with recording equipment, assume you are being recorded even if the police do not say so. This includes audio and video recording.

Some things to keep in mind regarding recorded interrogations:

  • Police may try to record you surreptitiously, without informing you.
  • Courts often allow secretly recorded conversations between police and suspects.
  • Always assume the police will try to record your conversation.
  • Avoid saying anything you wouldn’t want heard by a jury.

While recording interrogations can help prevent false confessions, it still gives police evidence they can use against you. So it remains critical to avoid talking until you have legal counsel.

If You Are Questioned About Someone Else

Police may try talking to you as a witness against someone else they suspect of a crime. But remember – they are looking for incriminating evidence against others, and anything you say could potentially be used against you as well.

To protect yourself in this situation:

  • Avoid talking to the police about any person connected to an investigation.
  • Politely decline to speak with officers without a lawyer present.
  • Do not try to protect anyone else by making statements against your own interests.

You are not obligated to provide information that could implicate you or anyone else. The wisest approach is still to remain silent and speak to a lawyer first.

Never Lie to the Police

Lying to the police, or providing intentionally misleading statements, can cause big problems:

  • It may constitute a new, separate criminal offense.
  • Any inconsistencies can damage your credibility.
  • Lies give officers leverage to pressure you into a confession.
  • It diverts attention away from your strongest defenses.

The best approach is to avoid speaking to the police to begin with. Let your lawyer handle any communications on your behalf so you avoid any misstatements.

How an Attorney Can Help

Here are some of the ways having skilled legal counsel can help if you are arrested:

  • They ensure the police follow proper procedures and don’t violate your rights.
  • They act as an intermediary so you don’t have to talk directly to police.
  • They can work to get charges reduced or dropped if evidence is lacking.
  • They negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf.
  • They can help arrange your release from jail on bond or bail.
  • They identify weaknesses in the government’s case against you.
  • They can hire investigators and experts to strengthen your defense.