Most criminal suspects have no general legal obligation to cooperate with police officers. Still, for a variety of reasons, individuals regularly incriminate themselves by talking with police. That is, they say something prosecutors use against them to secure a conviction or plea deal.
If you think officers may question you in connection with possible criminal conduct, you should have a strategy for interacting with them. At a minimum, you do not want to make matters worse. Here are three mistakes to avoid when talking to the police.
1. Saying anything
Arguably, the biggest mistake you can make is saying anything at all, at least initially.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to remain silent during custodial interrogations. Until you have enough information to make an informed choice to speak, you should strongly consider invoking that right.
2. Not asking for an attorney
While your right not to incriminate yourself is a powerful one, you also have a fundamental right to have a lawyer present during police questioning. Requesting a lawyer makes good sense for a couple reasons.
First, when you ask for a lawyer, officers should stop questioning you until one arrives. More importantly, though, an attorney can likely help you minimize your potential criminal exposure.
3. Believing what officers say
Many individuals believe that officers may not misrepresent material facts or outright lie during interrogations. This is mostly not true, however.
Officers receive extensive training about how to elicit information from criminal suspects and others. They also use a variety of tactics to pressure individuals to talk.
Rather than blindly believing everything officers say, you may want to assume you are the target of a misinformation campaign.