Depending largely on how you were raised, you will either fear and mistrust the police or trust and appreciate them. If you fall into the latter category you may also be inclined to open up without reservation if you are ever questioned by the police. After all, why shouldn’t you talk to the police if you are innocent, right? Unfortunately, the best rule to follow is to never talk to the police without consulting a defense attorney first, unless you are the actual victim of a crime.
When a Talk is More than a Talk
If you are contacted by a law enforcement officer who indicates he/she just wants to “talk” to you your initial reaction may be the desire to cooperate if you know you have not committed a crime yourself. After all, the officer surely doesn’t consider you a suspect, right? One of the many difficult lessons for the average person to learn is that when the police want to “talk” to you it means you fall into one of here categories – victim, “person with information,” or suspect. The second and third categories, however, can be extremely fluid, meaning you can quickly go from a “person with information” to a suspect. In fact, law enforcement officers are trained to consider everyone a potential suspect until proven otherwise. Therefore, unless you are the victim of a crime, a “talk” is never really just a talk. Instead, it is more of an interrogation in the guise of a friendly conversation. This is not to say that anything nefarious is going on, the police officer is simply doing his/her job. To do that job well though they must consider the possibility that even the most innocent appearing among us is capable of committing a crime.
What Is the Harm in Talking If I’m Innocent?
Sadly, there are an unknown number of people serving lengthy sentences in prison right now because they followed that exact train of thought. There is nothing wrong, of course, with wanting to be of assistance during a criminal investigation; however, remember that anytime the police want to “talk” to you it means you are viewed as a potential suspect. Even a rookie law enforcement officer knows that a “witness” can turn into a suspect in the blink of an eye. A law enforcement officer is trained to listen for discrepancies in stories, suspicious explanations, and explanations that lack proof. They are also trained to watch for physical signs of deception or nervousness. The problem with all of that is that even an innocent person can get a story mixed up, provide odd explanations, or give an explanation for which they have no proof. An innocent person can certainly be nervous talking to the police as well. Consequently, an innocent person can appear guilty, or at least as though he/she is hiding something. That is the fastest way to move you from the “person with information” category to the “suspect” category.
Was It Something I Said?
Speaking of being nervous when talking to the police…most people are. When you are nervous, things frequently don’t come out the way you intended – and even when they do, they can be misinterpreted. Something you say, or fail to say, can easily be misinterpreted, or taken out of context, by a law enforcement officer who is looking for a suspect. Again, keep in mind that a police officer is not looking for evidence of your innocence but evidence of your guilt.
Do I Really Need a Defense Attorney?
Maybe you do….maybe you don’t. You certainly need to consult with one in order to find out the answer to that question which will depend on the facts and circumstances under which the police want to talk to you. Sometimes it really is o.k. to talk to the police without an attorney present; however, this is one of those times when “to err on the side of caution is definitely the better part of valor” as the old adage goes.
If you have been contacted by a law enforcement officer regarding an ongoing criminal investigation, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney — even if you are innocent of all wrongdoing. If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.