The intimidation and pressure of facing down a police officer can make you feel forced to tell your story when accused of a crime. The police are doing their job, but you have rights, and everything you say to the police can be used in court. Many times, the only evidence available at trial will be the defendant’s own statement.
To prevent the possibility of essentially “testifying” against yourself, what do you do when questioned?
You may feel compelled to speak—either from the pressure, or the desire to obey authority, but it is in your best interest to remain silent. In fact, it is your right, and you should exercise it.
2. Be Polite and Cooperate
It is completely acceptable to provide your name, address, and other basic information, and it demonstrates your cooperation. But you are not required to submit to questioning, and should choose not to. This also goes for searches (pockets, purses, vehicle, etc.). And you do not have to sign anything.
3. Ask for a Lawyer
TV and movies have taught us that only the “bad guy” will “lawyer up.” But the reason interrogations stop when a lawyer is called for is because anyone accused of a crime has a right to counsel—advice—on what to do. Most people are not “experts” on the legal system, so calling a lawyer can make all the difference, especially when your own words could be the only evidence against you. Be polite, but inform the police, “Before I can speak to you, I must speak with my lawyer.”
It’s natural to want to cooperate, and even “explain” when confronted by police. But you cannot legally be forced to speak, and should exercise the right to remain silent and speak with your attorney. Give us a call at 773-522-7000.
This post is also available in: Spanish