Being confronted and questioned by police, no matter the scenario, can be a scary prospect. But it can be a little less scary if you know your rights.
Along with knowing your legal and constitutional protections when talking to (or not talking to) officers is having some common sense tips on things you should really never say to police.
Anything. First and foremost, in the majority of police interactions, you have the right to refuse to answer questions. This right is exercised differently in different situations, but generally speaking you are under no obligations to answer questions from the police. If you're stopped on the street or in your car, you can simply decline to answer questions; if officers ask you to come in for questioning, you can refuse; and if you are under arrest you can, and should, affirmatively invoke your Miranda rights under the Fifth Amendment and remain silent. Do all of the above calmly and politely. Do give your name and show your ID. Anything else will make a bad situation worse.
"Yes, You Can Search My ..." Police need probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or a warrant to perform almost any search of your person or property. But this requirement can be bypassed if you give police consent to search your car, house, cell phone, etc. If police search without your consent, and without probable cause or a warrant, any evidence they find may be considered "fruit of the poisonous tree" and therefore suppressed in court.
"I Only Had Two Beers." I know what you're thinking -- "If I just admit to a little, the cops will understand, and surely two beers didn't make me too drunk to drive." Here's the problem: even admitting to some alcohol consumption before driving (or any possible legal transgression in any scenario) can give officers the reasonable suspicion they need to detain, investigate, and interrogate you further.
"I Did It." Again, it's the officers' (and later the prosecutors') job to prove you committed a crime. Despite what investigators may tell you, confessing to a police officer probably won't have any effect on your sentence. If you are going to plead guilty, you should do so with legal counsel present and as part of a plea bargain.
ALie. All that said, you shouldn't lie to officers. Making false statements to police officers can lead to an obstruction of justice charge, which in most cases is a felony.
Your best bet when dealing with police officers is to not say anything at all. If you are going to talk to cops, make sure you have a lawyer present.
Editor's Note: This post, like all others on this blog, is not legal advice, just a
thoughtful list of things to consider when confronted by law enforcement. To
best understand your rights and responsibilities when dealing with the police,
please talk to a criminal defense attorney in your area. Laws and facts differ,
and one size does not fit all.