We were raised to be respectful of authority. Cops have a hard job; there is no doubt about that. But the United States Constitution guarantees you don’t have to make their job any easier. You know the words by heart: You have the right to remain silent. But do you actually follow that rule when you are talking to an officer?
Silence is golden
A cop’s job is to investigate a crime. A cop does not have to disclose to you that he is investigating a crime and, further, he does not have to disclose that he is investigating you. You can be sure that an officer will never tell you that you are a suspect. And you can also be sure that he will pretend to be your friend while he gathers all the information he needs to prosecute you–directly from your own mouth.
In our experience, the most damaging evidence in a criminal case is provided by the very person who is later charged. Why? Because cops are trained in getting you to talk. They know how to make you feel comfortable, and you would not be the first person to think, Maybe if I just give them enough information to clear myself they will go away. Well, think again. Savvier people than you have been victim to their desire to explain why they are not guilty of a crime. Don’t fall for that game. You will lose every time.
Loose lips sink ships
Whether it is a minor traffic stop, or a cop swings by your house hoping to chat you up, the most you are ever required to tell a cop is your name. Once you have given the officer your name, follow it up in the next breath with the following: On my lawyer’s advice, I cannot talk to you. Once you have said those magic words, the cop must stop his questioning.
And in between your name and those nine words, don’t be tempted to tell the cop what a jerk he is, why he should leave you alone, or any other savory phrases that might also be peppered with expletives.
Why? Because until you utter those magic words, everything you say will be documented. Don’t even say,”My name is Joe and I would like you to leave my house,” because if you are prosecuted, you can bet the cop will be on the stand testifying to how you asked him to leave, how that made him suspicious, how it seemed like you had something to hide. Trust us, people have been convicted on less.
You are your own best advocate
You have the right to remain silent. Don’t worry about offending the cop. Don’t feel like you have to apologize for not talking. Don’t be Minnesota nice. Protect your rights: You are the only one who can.