Speaking with Police and Federal Agents: Don’t Do It
A major tool used by police and federal agents to get people to talk with them and, often, incriminate themselves, is intimidation. Police understand that when you are threatened with an arrest, you are scared and confused. Police are trained to intimidate, coerce and even lie to you. The law permits that – up to a point.
Of course, the reality is that the police will almost always deny that they or their colleagues did anything improper. For example, when two people are arrested, they are almost always separated and the police will tell each of them that the other person has told them “the truth”, in order to get the one they are with to talk to them.
Beware of the overly friendly officer. The police and federal law enforcement agents are not your friends when you are being arrested or investigated for a crime. Their goal is to get you to “voluntarily” talk with them and, hopefully, make their jobs easier by implicating yourself. Also, consider this: since the overwhelming majority of encounters with police or law enforcement agents are not video or audio taped, it is usually their word against yours. And you can guess who wins, most of the time, when a judge must decide who is telling the truth. So, be smart and talk with your criminal defense attorney before you even consider talking with the police.
The police use different techniques to get you to talk. They often play “good cop – bad cop”, just like you see on television and the movies. Yes, it really happens.
The police and the agents will tell you that you don’t need an attorney; that you can save money by not calling an attorney. And sometimes, they will even make snide comments about your lawyer if you mention his/her name. The reason: to keep you from calling an attorney.
The police will invoke religion, family, your sense of responsibility as a parent, to get to you talk. They will mention your job, your co-workers, your neighbors, and how embarrassing it will be for you if you don’t cooperate with them. They will say that if you talk with them, they wont arrest your wife, your brother, or anyone else they believe may be vulnerable to criminal charges. They will offer to talk to the prosecutor and get him/her to “go easy” on you and will say that although they have to arrest you, they will get the prosecutor to agree to recommend a very low bond. Don’t believe any of it.
When the police appear at your front door and ask for consent to search your home, your office or your car, don’t give consent – even if you are completely innocent. Don’t sign written consent forms under any circumstances. Don’t give a statement to the police. And definitely, don’t talk into a tape recorder or allow yourself to be videotaped talking to the police.
I am not at all anti-police. Many police officers and federal agents are good and honorable people who put their lives on the line for us each day. But, I have found after forty years as a criminal defense lawyer, that when two or more police or federal agents get together, their mentality often changes and their integrity tends to suffer. Any honest cop or federal agent will admit that what I have written here is completely accurate.
Even if you are convinced that you are innocent of what the police or agents are speaking with you about, it is rarely in your best interest to talk with them – and never in your best interest to speak with them prior to consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.