Why You Should Never Make a Statement to the Police

Posted by Mark Hauser

I have been practicing Criminal Defense in the Philadelphia area for over 25 years and I want to talk to you today about a very common occurrence: You have either been arrested or the police have called you up and said that they want to talk to you about a crime in which you may be a suspect. Let’s start with the 5th Amendment, which states, among other things, that “No person 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.”

The first thing to keep in mind is that our right to remain silent was put in place to protect both the guilty and the innocent. Secondly, this is a very important right so be sure to take advantage of it, especially initially when you know so little about the accusations against you. Third, remember that almost always the police are not really looking to get your side of the story, they are trying their best to get a confession out of you. And they will do whatever they can within some limits to accomplish this. And remember it is not illegal (although it should be) for them to lie to you in an effort to get you to make a statement.

Hence, in this circumstance the police are — no matter how hard they try to convince you otherwise — not your friend. And when they tell you that things will go easier for you if you confess now, they are not telling you the truth. Why, you ask: after all — I came clean right away – shouldn’t that count for something? Yes it should, but it rarely does and because the state now has a confession out of you the chance of the state getting a conviction goes up dramatically. And when that happens the offers that your attorney receives later are almost always worse than they would have been otherwise. If it is best for you to speak with the district attorney and the detectives later on because you want to confess and cooperate there will be plenty of time for that with your attorney present to protect your constitutional rights.

So, what could go wrong with you talking to the police, whether you are guilty or innocent? Plenty, and here are the reasons why you should never, ever speak with the police at this point. First, it can’t help because you can’t talk yourself out of an arrest. If you think that you are a slick individual, a good liar, or a genius, and that you are going to prevent your arrest because of your brilliance — you are 100% wrong, you are dead wrong, and you are always wrong. Look it this way: If the police have a weak case against you, or if they don’t really believe the complaining witness, they are not going to arrest you whether you speak with them or not. And if they have a strong case against you, or if they believe the complaining witness, they are going to arrest you whether you speak with them or not. Hence, speaking with the police at this point does you no good. Secondly, believe or not, innocent people, for a variety of reasons, sometimes confess to crimes that they didn’t commit. Third, even if you are innocent you may, because you are nervous, make a mistake, exaggerate or embellish, forget, and just plain lie. And this inconsistency may later be used to impeach your testimony if you happen to take the stand at your trial. Fourth, you may give the police information that they could not have acquired on their own and this information might later be used to convict you. Fifth, the police may misquote you, take what you said out of context, or make some other mistake regarding your statement. Sixth, they might have some false evidence that can’t be shown to be false, that if believed, can make the truthful thing that you said look like a lie. While this is not common — witnesses lie and make mistakes all the time — so it is definitely possible.

I hope that I have given you enough reasons not to speak to the police without an attorney present when you are a suspect, could be a suspect, or you have just been arrested. If you find yourself in these circumstances, immediately invoke your 5th Amendment right and speak with a criminal defense attorney. Let him or her speak to the police for you.

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