Talking to Police
If you are ever the subject of any police investigation, whether it’s a felony or a misdemeanor, talking to the police is generally a bad idea and can carry devastating consequences. Both defense counsel and prosecutors know that the more someone talks to the police (especially without an attorney), the worse things usually become for that person. In many instances, people believe they are helping their case, when in fact they are only digging a deeper hole for themselves.
Should a person meet with police by themselves?
If a person is the subject of an investigation, it is a bad idea to meet with the police with no attorney present. It is not a matter of guilt or innocence (after all if you’re innocent you have nothing to hide right?) it is a matter of giving the police information that could be used against that person. Even if you are charged with a crime and the case is ultimately dismissed, the damage to that person’s life is already done in the form of paying attorney fees, stress of the event, possible loss of a job, and the mental fatigue that comes with the possibility of jail or prison time.
Is it always a bad idea to meet with the police?
Talking to the police is not always a bad idea. Like many things in the law, it depends on a situation. An experienced criminal defense attorney would be able to sort through the issues with you. There are plenty of cases in which a person has met with the police with their criminal defense attorney present and helped their case or prevented a charge from being filed altogether. There are plenty of cases in which this is not a wise decision. Every case is different, it depends on the specifics of each case.
What can go wrong if someone wants to deny something happened without speaking with an attorney first?
A hypothetical situation can illustrate this point. A mythical person, Oswaldo, is being investigated concerning a charge of Failure to Stop After an Accident in Ohio. The police contact him to make it known that they want to talk to him about the alleged incident. Oswaldo knows he did not do this, so he decides to talk without an attorney present.
(As an aside, Oswaldo would have no obligation to talk to the police in this situation. Many people do not realize they have that option.)
Oswaldo has nothing to hide, after all he is innocent so nothing can go wrong. Oswaldo meets with the police and finds out that a neighbor down the street has alleged that a car that matched the description of Oswaldo's car clipped the neighbor’s car down the road at about 8am a week ago on a Tuesday. Oswaldo tells police that he works five days a week and often leaves to go to work around that time, but he did not hit any car. He would have stopped had anything like that occurred. He also says he drives a red sedan, which matched the description of the car from the neighbor.
Oswaldo thinks that he denied the entire situation so no harm no foul. However, he just confirmed to the police that he drives the car that matches the description from the neighbor, he confirmed to the police that he drives to work around at that time of day, he confirmed that he usually drives 5 days a week, and he did not mention that anyone else ever drives the car. This is all information that the police may or may not have figured out on their own, but Oswaldo has given to them for free. And worse yet, Oswaldo cannot deny that he said it since these are his own words and it is likely being recorded.
Let’s take it further. What if Oswaldo subsequently gets charged with Failure to Stop After an Accident, hires an attorney, and eventually goes to trial. He remembers that there are some details that he forgot to tell the police when he met with them because he did not think they were relevant at the time. For instance, other people in his family drive his car occasionally so perhaps someone else damaged the car. When he adds those details at trial under oath, the prosecution points out that he had an opportunity to talk to the police and did not mention that. The prosecution points out that now that Oswaldo has been charged, he is adding details and changing his story at trial. Further, the prosecution argues, Oswaldo is clearly desperately attempting to avoid criminal prosecution for the heinous act that he has committed. All of the sudden, it is not just what he said that is hurting him, but also what was not said.
That example is for a Failure to Stop After an Accident, a misdemeanor of the first degree, but it can be extended to murder, rape, assault or any number of felonies where the stakes can be incalculable.
The worst mistake that people make when talking to the police is not realizing that what you do not say will also be used against you. In plenty of cases, the police have already decided in their mind that you have committed the act you are being accused of. If that happens, any information moving forward will either be disregarded as not helpful to their theory or used to confirm what they already know.
What can you do?
Talking to the police without an attorney is usually a bad idea. However, every case is different. This is legal information, not legal advice. Talk to an attorney to get a better idea of what to do if you ever find yourself in these circumstances. Call Brian C. Morrissey, an experienced criminal defense attorney, at 419-830-7441 for a free consultation today.