Guilty Or Innocent: Why Talking To The Police Isn't In Your Best Interest

The Fifth Amendment protects your right to say 'no' when the police asks you to answer questions. Likewise, you have the right to decline if a police officer asks you to come to the station for questioning.

Even if you've done nothing wrong, the best thing to do is remain silent. Despite what the police may suggest, silence is NOT an admission of guilt. However, anything you say -- even before you are arrested -- can be held against you in court.

What the police don't have to do:

  • Tell you why they want to talk to you or whether they are interested in talking to you as a suspect or witness.

  • Tell you that you don't have to answer their questions. You can't be arrested for hindering an investigation or obstruction of justice if you don't voluntarily agree to answer questions.

  • Arrest you. Even if the police think you're guilty, they can't arrest you unless they have enough evidence against you. In the meantime, they can still try to get you to talk.

  • Read you your Miranda rights. A police officer must place you under arrest first. If you aren't in police custody at the time you answer questions, Miranda doesn't apply.

  • Tell you it's to your benefit to have a lawyer present before answering questions.

  • Tell you they can lie to you to get the truth. For example, the police cannot tell you someone places you at the scene when the crime occurred if it's not true.

  • Inform you that you can stop talking at any time and invoke your right to counsel.

  • Tell you that you can to leave if you want. Unless you ask if you are free to go, a police officer assumes you are willing to talk.

What the police may tell you:

  • They have the right to ask you anything they want. Often, the police will tell you they will let you go once you tell them what they need to know. However, if you give them incriminating evidence during an interrogation, they may then have probable cause to arrest you.

  • You don't need a lawyer if you have nothing to hide. They may tell you asking for a lawyer makes you look guilty. What it does is get you the legal advice you need.

  • You must be guilty if you lie when giving a statement. Lying destroys credibility, but even innocent people sometimes lie to protect themselves or someone else.

  • Things will go easier on you if you admit guilt. They may not explain you are handing the prosecution a conviction without allowing you the opportunity to present your case.

  • They are trying to help you and will do what they can to get you a better deal if you cooperate. No matter what they say, the police can't offer you leniency in return for giving them a statement. Only the attorney prosecuting your case can negotiate a plea agreement with the attorney representing you.

Why you shouldn't talk to police without a lawyer present:

  • It won't help you, but it could hurt you. Even if you're innocent, you may give the police information the prosecution could use against you in court. Something you say might connect you to evidence that makes you look guilty.

  • You may not be 100 percent consistent when telling your story more than once. Changes to your original statement, no matter how small or unintentional, could cast doubt on your testimony.

  • Even if you are guilty of a crime and want to confess, there could be mitigating factors. After collecting the facts, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to establish that you are guilty of a lesser charge.