The number one rule governing your interactions with the police (or your friends, family, loved ones, ANYONE really) is that you should not talk to them. And you should certainly not consent to any requests to search you, your car, or your home. You wouldn’t believe the amount of cases where I review the discovery and continue to think to myself “The State has nothing!” only to come upon a total and complete confession on the last page. This is because it is really quite difficult for the State to build most criminal cases. They have the burden to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and it is much more difficult for them to do thiswithout your help and cooperation.
You know the line. You have the right to remain silent, and anything you say or do can and will be used against you. It’s true. The police already have a ton of power. Do not give them more by allowing them to manipulate you!
You cant talk your way out of it!
For the most part, if the police are talking to you, or asking to search you (or your car or your home), they already suspect your involvement in something. It is very likely that nothing you say will change their minds. Because of this fact there is nothing to be gained by trying to talk your way out of it.
Police are trained to interrogate for a living, and they will not let up if they think you are involved. The only way to stop the conversation is to request a lawyer, and tell them you wish to remain silent.
If they want to arrest you, or search you, they will find a way to do it. But by talking to them, you play right into their hands. It’s exactly what they want. Similarly, if they want to search you or your car, they will find a way to do it. But if they do something wrong, whatever it is they find can be suppressed from your case. But if they do something wrong AND you consented to the search, the evidence will come in. So the easy answer is, always say no! No, you cannot search me! No, you cannot search my car!
Even if you are innocent, you could tell a small lie that hurts you later
Think about it. You have done nothing wrong. The police know X is involved, and they think you helped him. But in fact, you have an alibi for the night the burglary took place. In addition to proclaiming your innocence and telling the detective that you were with your in-laws the night the break in occurred, you also say “I’ve never even met X!”
Well it turns out that you have met X before, and the police have some pictures to prove it. Even if you did nothing wrong, your credibility is in real trouble in this scenario. The police will not believe you, and if the case ever went to a jury, they might not either. It is simply not worth the risk.
Even if you are guilty, there is no deal on the table.
Believe it or not, the police are allowed to lie to you to get you to talk. We have video of you entering the store! We have a witness who puts you at the scene! We have your DNA on the door frame! None of it is true, and yet if you admit to something as a result of these lies, it still comes in against you.
You have no clue if the police are telling you the truth, and really it doesn’t matter in the least. If the police actually have any of those things, you will get a chance to see them in due course. And you will have a chance to evaluate their trustworthiness and authenticity. Maybe that video doesn’t come into evidence, or they got the DNA without following proper protocols. If you admit, then those flaws in the State’s case likely won’t matter in the end.
The usual line used by cops to butter you up, and get you to confess, is also total BS. “Just talk to us, tell us how you were involved, and it’ll go a lot easier for you, we’ll cut you a deal…” Sound familiar? Well, in Maryland, the police, literally, do not have the authority to cut you a deal. That authority lies only with the prosecutor. The cop could put in a good word, or make a recommendation, but he cannot control the outcome of the case.
Because of this, again, there is nothing to be gained by talking to the police yourself. Request a lawyer. Let the lawyer talk to the prosecutor and try to work out a deal. Maybe then it will be time to talk. But up front, remember that the police cannot make deals! That is the prosecutor’s job.
The police may not accurately recall your statement.
Many statements to police today are recorded, either in a formal interrogation room or maybe on a police body camera, or a camera in the police car. But many statements are not recorded. See if you can remember the conversation you had with your boss yesterday, or your wife this morning. See if you can remember the exact statements made, and words spoken.
Well that is what we are relying on the police to do. Even without a nefarious motive, will they really be able to recall exactly what you said? And how you said it? Even if they write the report just moments after the conversation? A very tall task.
Further, as we know in today’s world, unfortunately not all police officers are honest, upstanding people, following through on their oath to protect and serve the public. What if you happen to give your statement to one of these officers? It is very likely that officer’s recollection of your statement will be exactly what he wants it to be, as opposed to what you actually said.
They will hear what they want to hear, and they will twist your words to fit the narrative they see. The only way to avoid this is to remain silent. Then they have no words to twist. So many times I will read a client’s statement to them, that they allegedly made to the police, and their response is unequivocal: “I didn’t say that! I only said this!” Well if you had said nothing at all, there would be no misunderstanding, no twisting, no mistake about what you said.
If you really want to talk, there is a time and a place.
And it is not the night you are arrested and interrogated. If you really are guilty, and want to come clean, let a lawyer, like a criminal defense lawyer Baltimore MD relies on, get involved. Let the lawyer assess the evidence, and make sure that the State can prove its case. Then, and only then, see what offer may be on the table for you. Negotiate your statement. You will give it to the State (police, prosecutor, etc.), but you want something in return.
If there is no deal, why talk? What are you gaining? The answer, generally, is nothing. So be sure, before talking, that you are getting something in return.
The State has all the power and resources in the world. You are already at a severe disadvantage. Do not help them! The State also have the burden to search you according to the law, and to take your statements according to the law. You, on the other hand, have no burden or duty to cooperate. In fact, the constitution gives you the absolute right to remain silent. Use it!
Thanks to our friends and contributors from the Greenberg Law Offices for their insight into criminal defense.