Know Your Fifth Amendment Rights
If a law enforcement officer wishes to speak with you, he is likely conducting a criminal investigation – and looking to make an arrest. Unless you’re the victim of a crime, it’s in your best interest to avoid volunteering any information to the police. The Fifth Amendment guarantees that “no person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” If you’re being questioned by the police, exercise your Fifth Amendment Constitutional right to remain silent at all times!
Law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion in order to detain you. If a police officer approaches you on the street or as you’re entering your car, you can ask him, “Am I free to go?” If he says “yes,” you should leave immediately, and avoid answering any questions. If he tells you you’re not free to leave, you should consider yourself a suspect and exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Trying to convince the officer to let you go won’t work – he will arrest you if he has probable cause.
Knowing your rights and remaining silent can protect you by preserving the strength of your defense. Don’t place yourself in a vulnerable position in a criminal investigation by making statements that could be used against you later. Not talking to the police gives your criminal defense attorney a better opportunity to prepare an effective defense on your behalf.
Why You Shouldn’t Talk To The Police
You’ve probably seen news stories involving suspects who made the prosecutor’s case for them by talking to law enforcement. Talking to a police officer isn’t going to help you – you risk providing him with information that could later be used to charge you with a crime. You’re always at a disadvantage when talking with the police, since they are trained professionals, skilled in obtaining admissions and confessions. Always keep the following in mind:
- Anything you say to the police can be used against you, and there’s no way to predict what information the police might use or how they will use it.
- The police officer could put words in your mouth, claiming that you made incriminating statements when you did not.
- A police officer could attempt to mislead you into incriminating yourself. A particularly common tactic is for them to tell you that they already know what you did, so you might as well come clean.
- Officers could misunderstand what you tell them – either accidentally or intentionally.
- You might acknowledge some facts that could be used to prove your involvement in or knowledge of a crime.
- Even if you believe that you’re completely innocent, you might feel pressured into telling a white lie to get out of trouble. Lying to the police during the interview could put you under suspicion, later impacting your credibility.
- The officer may make vague statements indicating that things will be easier for you if you just admit what you did wrong. However, police don’t have the authority to make deals with you or grant you leniency – that’s up to the prosecutor.
- Even if you believe that you are guilty, there is no advantage in rushing to confess. By remaining silent, you give your criminal defense attorney the opportunity to spot flaws in the prosecutor’s case, that can later be used to have your charges reduced or dismissed.
Scenarios Frequently Used By Law Enforcement
Police interviews have a single objective – producing a confession – and an officer will do whatever is necessary to obtain it. He might promise you that the court will go easier on you if you confess, tell you that he has evidence contradicting your story, or indicate that apologizing will get you out of trouble. The smartest response to a law enforcement officer wanting to interview you is to tell him that you wish to speak with an attorney, and then remain silent. Some of the most common interview scenarios are:
Apology Scenario – The officer tells the suspect that he should apologize to the victim, and requests a written apology letter – including all of the details of the crime. If the suspect objects, the investigator will attempt to persuade him that this letter will be used to demonstrate remorse to the prosecutor or judge. If the suspect complies, he is essentially providing the officer with a full confession, and handing the prosecutor everything he needs to obtain a conviction.
Your Side Of The Story – The officer tells the suspect that he needs his version of events. He makes the suspect feel at ease by suggesting that everything will be fine as long as he tells the truth. This is not the case, however. The officer will compare the suspect’s story with the evidence, and likely discover that it’s full of holes, omissions, and inconsistencies. This is because – even for a completely honest and innocent person – it’s nearly impossible to recall every fact correctly.
Lying Scenario – The officer asks the suspect for his version of the facts, and responds by telling the suspect that he knows he is lying, due to contradictory evidence from witnesses. It doesn’t matter whether or not this is true – officers are allowed to lie to suspects. The suspect is intimidated by the officer’s response, and confesses to his involvement in the crime.
Only Provide Identifying Information
If you refuse to identify yourself to law enforcement, they can hold you in custody in order to determine who you are. When stopped by the police, you should provide them with identifying information, such as your name, date of birth, and address. Beyond that, however, you should remain silent and exercise your right to have an attorney present.
Exercise Your Fifth Amendment Rights
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution upholds your right to remain silent, avoiding self-incrimination. You should exercise this right and never speak to a police officer under any circumstances: Don’t agree to an interview, don’t attempt to make a deal with an officer, don’t make any statements, and do insist on consulting an attorney.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys
We have successfully assisted many of our clients when police officers, detectives, or Federal Agents wanted to speak with them. The Law Office of Gregory Garrison is available to respond immediately to your call for help, so contact us today to discuss your case!