Previously published by Mark Bennett, Texas Criminal Defense Attorney
The following advice is worth millions of dollars, countless years in prison, and many saved lives.
If everyone followed this advice:
Many fewer people would be charged with crimes. They would, collectively, be saved millions of dollars in attorneys fees (not to mention lower taxes from needing fewer prosecutors and judges). Of those charged with crimes, many fewer would be convicted. They would, collectively, be saved countless years in prison. Of those who avoided prosecution or conviction, many would also avoid the death penalty. Their lives would be saved.
I give you this advice for free:
Don't talk to the police.Almost everyone in prison is there because they talked to the police. They thought they could explain; they thought they could help themselves.
When the police want to talk to you, it's not for your own good. They're not looking for evidence to clear you. They're looking for evidence against you.
The police tell you, "we're your friends, we can help. Make it easier on yourself. Confess now," so you confess, and go away for the maximum anyway. The police are not your friends.
Or the police ask about a murder: "what do you know about it?" He says, "I was there, but I didn't do it." They ignore the denial, write down "he admits being there," and use that to convict him. The police only hear what they want to hear.
Or the police ask about a robbery: "what do you know about the robbery?" You say, "I didn't do the robbery. I just sold the guy drugs." They charge you with dealing drugs, and you go to prison. The police are sneaky. They are allowed to lie to you to get a confession.
You have a constitutional right not to talk to the police. That means that your refusal to talk can't be used against you. If you keep your mouth shut, nobody will legally be able to consider that in deciding whether you're guilty or not (The cops may think you're guilty, but they think you're guilty anyway).
You also have a constitutional right to a lawyer. If you say, "I want a lawyer," the police are supposed to stop questioning you. Sometimes, though, they don't hear you demand a lawyer. So you have to tell them again. And again. And again:
And so on.Cop: Where were you Tuesday night?You: I want a lawyer.Cop: You don't need a lawyer, do you?You: I want a lawyer.Cop: If you're not guilty, why do you need a lawyer?You: I want a lawyer.Cop: I can't do anything for you once you get a lawyer.You: I want a lawyer.
If you've already talked to the police, talk to a lawyer before talking any more. Cooperating with the government is sometimes like dancing with a gorilla —you don't stop when you want to stop —but if you started talking without consulting a lawyer, a lawyer can tell you if it is in your best interest to keep cooperating.
If you have an appointment to talk to the police, don't go. Talk to a lawyer first.
After investigating the case and hearing the truth from you (never lie to your lawyer), your lawyer may decide you should talk to the police. In very rare situations, this is a good decision. It should never be done without an investigation, and it should never be taken lightly.