Should I Talk to the Police? Won't I Look Guilty if I Don't?


SHORSTEIN, LASNETSKI, & GIHON
answers
Should I talk to the police? Won't I look guilty if I don't?

Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
"No person...shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself..."

Should I talk to the police?

No and no.  You should never talk to the police without first consulting an attorney.  Police officers are trained to obtain confessions, admissions and inconsistencies.  If you are innocent, they will use inconsistencies in your statements as evidence of guilt.  Their may be things that you did that make you look guilty which law enforcement will exploit.  They may take your statements out of context or misunderstand you.  When the officer later testifies at a hearing or at trial, they will testify to what they remember that you said, not to what you actually said.  Have you ever played the telephone game where several children sit in a circle and one child makes up a sentence and whispers it into the next child's ear.  That child then tries to remember the sentence and whisper the exact same sentence verbatim to the next child and on and on.  By the last child, the sentence and meaning has been completely changed.  Oftentimes, the officer may spend an hour or more with you or investigating and only later go back and write down one or two sentences that he remembers you saying.  He may paraphrase your words, but right them down as if they were direct quotations.  He then would later testify that you stated the exact quotes, which may be dramatically different than what you said. 

You can get your side of the story out, but why would you do it without knowing the rules of the game?  When you speak to a police officer without a lawyer present, you probably don't know every criminal statute on the books, each and every element to every statute, the rules of criminal procedure, the rules of evidence, and case law interpretation of those rules and statutes.  Therefore, you may think that you are talking yourself out of an arrest, but admitting to the elements of a crime that you didn't even know you committed. 

For example, let's say you were accused of domestic battery against your spouse.  The officer confronts you about what happened.  The officer tells you that your spouse stated that you struck her.  You adamantly deny this and tell the officer that she or he was drinking and becoming belligerent and you got into an argument and she wouldn't leave you alone so you pushed her away to keep her from grabbing you.   Because the Florida battery statute requires only an "unwanted touching," the officer could arrest you for domestic battery for simply touching your spouse against her will. 

Won't it make me look guilty if I don't talk to police?

Absolutely not.  It will make you look smart.  The judges, prosecutors, and police officers all know the rules.  If they were ever accused of a crime, the first thing they would do is pick up a phone and call a lawyer.  This is a constitutional right and a protection you should enforce.  Once you obtain a lawyer, that lawyer acts as a buffer between you and the police or prosecution.  We can get your story across and any information that is helpful to you, but the State can't use it against you.  In other words, no police officer can take the stand and testify that your lawyer said that you admitted or confessed to committing a crime or made any incriminating admissions.  Additionally, the prosecutor cannot tell the jury that you didn't talk to police.  They can't even mention it. 

 What should I do if a police officer wants to ask me about a crime?

You should tell the officer respectfully and politely that:

1)  I would like to invoke my right to remain silent, and

2)  I would like an attorney. 

If you say those two things, all of the pressure the police place on you to talk goes away.  They can't ask you any more questions.  It's like magic.  But if you don't say those two things, they keep applying pressure, lying to you, and convincing you that it is in your best interests to talk to them when it is not. 

What can you do for me if a police officer wants to talk to me?

We are often retained by people under criminal investigation.  After we are formally retained, we immediately contact the law enforcement agent and tell them that we represent our client.  We then discuss the investigation with our client and get all of the information we can about what is going on.  We then contact the law enforcement agent or officer and discuss the investigation.  Sometimes, we will arrange for our client to talk to the agent or officer, while we are present.  We often acquire a "proffer agreement" where none of the statement our client makes can later be used against them in the State's case-in-chief.  Other times, we relay information from our client, other witnesses and other evidence to the investigating officer or agent in an attempt to convince them that a crime did not occur or that our client did not commit the crime alleged.  Every case is different and fact specific, but it is critical that you get an experienced criminal defense attorney involved as soon as possible. 

What if my family member is being questioned right now? Can I hire you to represent him or her?

Yes.  A new Florida Supreme Court decision, McAdams v. State has held that under the Florida Constitution, if an attorney goes to the police station and demands to see their client, whether the attorney was retained by the client or the client's family and whether the client knows that the attorney was retained or not, while an interview or interrogation is already under way, the law enforcement agency must inform the client that he or she has an attorney who is their to see him or her.  

If you or a loved one is under investigation for a crime,
don't speak to the police and,

Call Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon Now!

904-642-3332 (Jacksonville)
 
or

407-228-2019 (Orlando). 

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