Layman's Perspective: Should You Talk to the Police?
Wow. Look at you. Look at you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more decent, good-hearted, salt-of-the-earth-y human being in all my life. You are clearly a source of comfort and pride to your family, your friends, and your community, and I for one would be surprised if there aren’t people all over town who wake up every day weeping with gratitude that they have had the chance to know you. I bet you sometimes bake brownies and then just give them away. You do, don’t you? I knew it. Wow. Look at you.
Here’s the thing, though. Painful though it is for me just to harbor this idea in my own mind, let alone to inflict it upon you, you dear, sweet lamb, I must mention that there are situations in which you may want to consider resisting your impulses of helpfulness. One of those situations is when you’re talking to the police. I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Take a minute. Here’s a tissue.
Now, obviously there’s been some kind of mix-up if the police are talking to you for any reason other than to thank you for being a local monument of brownie-baking moral impeccability, but all the same, it would be best for you (and by extension the world you brighten) if you prepared for just such a mix-up by practicing, in the mirror or under your breath in your car as you drive to the park where you rehabilitate ducks with personality disorders, this sentence: I prefer not to make any statements.
I prefer not to make any statements. Not so bad, right? It’s not like you’re hurting anyone when you say that. And in the unlikely and totally unfair event that you are suspected of a crime, that sentence will keep intact the legal defense you may have to mount; it will prevent the following scenario, something similar to which takes place in the Hebets & McCallin office about once a week:
Russ or Colin [reading police report in which client X talks to cops]: “DAMN it!”
Jason [startled]: *Spills drink on self.
Russ or Colin: *Drafts motion to suppress statements based on arcane 18th century case-law requiring judge to view client X’s bicycle as place of employment.
Russ or Colin [later, reading new report]: “DAMN it!”
Jason [startled]: *Staples own finger.
So practice that sentence, my little tulip, keeping in mind that it’s easy to decline to make a statement when you’re alone and difficult to do so in front of a police officer, who might lie that they already know you’re guilty, or might threaten you with more severe punishment if you don’t cooperate, or might just be kind of nice, sending the signal to reciprocate kindness hurtling down its well-trodden pathway in your beautiful, beautiful brain but you’ve got to SHUT IT DOWN! DO YOU HEAR ME?! SHUT DOWN THE SIGNAL BEFORE IT GETS OUT YOUR BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL MOUTH!
Anyway. There’s a reason that lawyers’ blogs, including this one, all feature warnings against talking to the police: it is one of the most common, most damaging, and most easily-avoidable missteps people make in criminal cases.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to rinse the coffee out of my shirt. Again.