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When should (and shouldn’t) you talk to the police?

On Behalf of | Jun 11, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Most people are generally aware that they’re under no obligation to answer police inquiries without legal representation if they’re under arrest and being interrogated. That “right to remain silent” is included in the Miranda warning, which doesn’t legally have to be given until a person is under arrest and about to be interrogated.

You are required to provide accurate identifying information if asked

It’s important to be clear on what your rights and responsibilities are the minute you’re stopped by police – whether in your vehicle or anywhere else. First, you are required to give them your correct name and address if asked and show them your driver’s license or other identifying documentation if requested. 

Beyond that, it’s typically best to clearly but politely assert your right to remain silent and get legal representation – particularly if you’re looking at a potential arrest. Just refusing to speak is not the same as invoking that right. 

More people get into trouble by talking too much than too little. They often think they can talk their way out of an arrest. They sometimes think they’re smarter than the police. They may be talking more than they realize because they’re under the influence.

Police can lie to you – but you can’t lie to them

By talking to police on your own, you run the risk of saying something untrue. Intentionally lying to the police in itself is a crime. Unfortunately, police can legally lie to suspects. Further, if your untrue statements hinder an investigation, you can face obstruction of justice charges.

Police may assure you that you’re not under suspicion and that they just want some information about someone else. However, it’s generally still wise not to do this on your own.

Of course, every situation is different. You have to use common sense. For example, if police are interviewing people at the scene of a shooting to try to identify and locate the perpetrator and you just happened to be in the area, it’s likely in the public interest (and your own) to help them if you can.

What’s important is to know your rights and be able to assert them effectively without making a tense situation even worse. It’s also crucial to know when your rights have been violated – particularly if you’ve been arrested and charged. Having experienced legal guidance can help.