In every case, the answer to this question is the same - it is an unqualified unequivocal NO!
The way this issue usually comes up in my practice is when a client or potential client calls my office and says that they received a call from police asking them to come to the station to “answer a few questions,” what should I do?
First of all, let’s remember that words mean things, and the cops know what words to use. They will ask you to come down for an interview. What they really want to do is interrogate you. If they were asking you to come down for an interrogation then how would you answer?
Alright, so my advice is to answer the question with an unequivocal “no,” but some of you might wonder why? I guess the place to start is with the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
To help you understand this from a different perspective, think of it this way: why do the police want to interrogate you? Again, there is really only one answer, and that is because the police don’t YET have enough evidence to prosecute you (without your answers). If they did have enough information then they’d already be prosecuting you. It’s that simple.
Also, the police don’t want to take anyone into the interview room that they think are innocent. If they thought you were innocent, they wouldn’t be asking for your interview (interrogation).
Secondly, the police are not trying to help you. NEVER make this mistake. Let me say it again, the police are not trying to help you. You will receive NO gain from talking to the police. The police will NOT go easier on you because you “cooperated” with them and the judge will not be tougher on you because you exercised your Constitutional right not to talk to the police.
If you do talk t the police then you are never on a level playing field. The police will be recording what you say and you will have no such recording. This recording may simply be in writing - their written report, or it could be an audio or videotape. If you think a videotape will help you, please see 4, 5 and 6 below.
What follows is a summary of what Professor James Duane has to say about this issue as related in his video presentation “talking to the police” I recommend that you watch his video, and you may do so by clicking on them at the end of this post. If you don’t have the time or inclination to watch the videos then this summary will help you get started:
1. There’s NO WAY it can help. You can’t “talk your way out of getting arrested,” and you can’t use anything you say that’s good for you at trial. According to the rules of evidence, the bad stuff comes in, the good stuff doesn’t. In other words, anything you say that helps the police and prosecutor convict you will come in at trial, anything you say that does not help the police or prosecutor at trial does not come in at trial because the good stuff, unlike the bad stuff, is considered hearsay, and hearsay is inadmissible. See Federal Rules of Evidence 801D2A.
2. You may admit your guilt while getting nothing in return for your “honesty.” If you want to admit your guilt, do it during the plea negotiating part of your case AFTER you are arrested. If you do it before, you’ve lost your ability to get anything in return.
3. No matter what you will ALWAYS give the police some information that will help them convict you.
4. Even if you are innocent, and don’t give the police anything that they can use against you, their non-ability to recall exactly what was said by you will be used to convict you at trial. It’s inevitable. If you don’t want to take my word on this, you’ll have to watch and listen the videos below to totally understand this. Police make mistakes, innocent or not, and these mistakes can really hurt you.
5. Even if you are innocent, and don’t give the police anything that they can use against you, and your statement is videotaped, your statement can be used against you at trial if the police come into possession of ANY evidence, true or not, that they can use to “prove” that your statement was false.
6. Your statement can be used against you at sentencing by the prosecutor to attempt to persuade the judge to give you a worse sentence as in more jail time.
You should now understand why there is NO REASON to EVER talk to the police. Again, though, if you want to know more, I highly recommend that you watch the videos.