Every single day people confess to the police. It never ceases to amaze me as to why. You should never, ever talk to the police. Period. However, if you don’t believe me,then perhaps you will believe former United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson when he says, “[A]ny lawyer worth his salt will tell the [client] in no uncertain terms to make no statement to the police under any circumstances.” Watts v. Indiana, 338 U.S. 49 (1949).
When a cop calls and say he “needs to talk to you” — no matter how nice he seems, or how nice you are — it is never to your benefit to speak. The cops only call for one reason – to make an arrest. Most of the time a complaint has already been filed against you. Nothing you say will be able to stop your arrest. So why speak?
When a cop calls and says he’s investigating “something” and just wants to have a “chat with you” down at the station so you can explain “your side of the story” rest assured he’s lying. They have all the cards. and you have none. You have no idea how they’ll be able to use what you say against you. It’s not a chat, it’s an interrogation. The police want to get your confession to save himself or herself a lot of paperwork in having to make an arrest warrant application.
You see, here’s what’s really going on. Police, by and large, like to take the path of least resistance. If the police arrest you upon “speedy information,” i.e., shortly after the alleged crime was reported, then they do not have to get a warrant for your arrest, which requires a lot of paperwork – in which “doing paper” is not the reason they became cops. So they first call you or come to your home to get you to come to the PD voluntarily, confess, and then they can arrest you without a warrant on “speedy information” as well as have the evidence of your confession.
Now you may be wondering ‘since they will get an arrest warrant, shouldn’t I go down and ‘get it over with’.’ The answer is a resounding NO! Here’s why:
(1) Sometimes they only have HALF the story. Maybe the person who fingered you was not 100% sure so could not “put you at the scene.” Perhaps that’s all they are fishing for you to put yourself there and without your cooperation they can never make a case against you.
(2) Sometimes they have evidence for a minor crime only, but your statements could give them evidence to arrest on a more serious crime. Perhaps all they have without your cooperation is a trespassing charge, but once you talk they can then prove a burglary charge.
(3) Just because they MAKE an arrest warrant application does not mean a judge will issue the arrest warrant.
(4) Often times the police need more affidavits from civilian witnesses to make an arrest warrant application. This takes time, and as time fades so do memories and zeal to cooperate with the police against you. In other words, often the case dies on the vine without your cooperation.
(5) Here is the most important reason you NEVER talk to the police: In NY and many other states, when you are arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant, you have an unalienable right to have an attorney present before making statements to the police. In other words, when arrested under an arrest warrant, the police are PROHIBITED from questioning you without a lawyer present. Anything you say CANNOT be used against you.
Once it gets this far you’re getting arrested. In fact, certain types of crimes require an arrest upon complaint only. Domestic violence and sex abuse are two. If someone calls and complains against you — no matter how strong their motive to lie might be — the police are required by statute to make an arrest.
Other problems with talking to the police
Cops are highly trained in the art of manipulation. It’s not like on TV where a grizzled old detective screams at you in you face. They come off as good guys and start by minimizing the investigation by saying something like, “we’re just checking out a few leads, we’re sure you had nothing to do with it,” or “we just want to get your side of the story…” Before you know it you’ll feel like you’re talking to old friends who are looking to help you out. They’ll say that they know you are “a good person” and that it will feel good “to get everything off your chest.” They’ll also tell you that they will “tell the judge you cooperated…it will probably be thrown out…” None of this manipulation to get you in the comfort zone is ever recorded, because while perfectly legal to lie and manipulate they know that if their tactics ever come to the light of day before a jury it will seem sleazy and the case could be compromised.
Rather, only your actual confession will be taped and recorded. You will repeat what you already told them after they softened you up with kindness to get the confession on tape. And believe me, once you crack it’s over. No one ever checks themselves before they give a written or recorded statement. You’ve been brainwashed in the unrecorded interview / interrogation and promised things that won’t happen (like the judge throwing out the case), that by the time you’re talking on tape, you’ll speak without prompting, calmly, and with precision because you’ve been well rehearsed. You can forget about getting a confession like that suppressed as involuntary. So don’t give one in the first place!
I repeat: Cops can (and will) lie to you!
So why do people talk?
People talk for various reasons. One reason is that we have been inculcated in our society that the police are our friends and helpers and that they should never ever be disrespected. While this is true, somewhere along the line we have crossed the assertion of constitutional rights to not talk, consent to a search, etc., into disrespect of the police. Nothing can be further from the truth. You have every right to assert your constitutional rights and tell a cop “NO.” That is not disrespect.
Another reason is that some people are so dumb that they think they’re smarter than the cops and can talk their way out of anything. Never works.
My experience though has been that most people just want to tell the truth; “get things off their chest…do the right thing…” It’s our puritan heritage. However, the cops are not your priest. You don’t go straight to heaven for confessing and “doing the right thing.” In fact, quite the opposite happens. You get the worse possible outcome and put yourself in the worse possible position by cooperating and confessing. The police will share the information you give them the court and prosecutors. It will not to do you any good like clear your conscience or save your soul, but get you convicted and placed behind bars.
If you really need to get things off your chest about something you’ve done, here’s who to confess to — your lawyer. He’ll cover all the bases, give you good advice, by law keep your confidence, and still try to get you out of jail.