Why You Should Never Talk to Police Without a Lawyer Present
Jun 07, 2021 07:51 PM EDT
It's a cliche from every crime show out there - "I get my phone call." You have probably heard that you should consult with a lawyer before being interviewed with the police.
But in fact, if you must speak to the police at all, you should never ever do so without a lawyer present in the room. Let's go over some of the questions people often have about talking to police, and explore why this is the case.
Won't it Make Me Look Guilty?
People often think that by asking for a lawyer, they are somehow signaling to police that they are guilty. But what the police think has no bearing in court; they must provide evidence, and no judge will accept the argument that seeking legal advice implies guilt. The Canadian constitution protects your right to counsel and requires police to inform you of that right.
If I'm Innocent, I Have Nothing to Fear
Being interrogated is an intimidating experience, even if you've never done anything wrong in your life (although having a good criminal lawyer in Toronto can make it less so). No one likes to be accused of something they have not done, and it is easy in a stressful situation to exaggerate or overstep in your effort to convince police of your innocence.
In over 25% of DNA exoneration cases in the US, innocent defendants made incriminating statements, delivered outright confessions, or pleaded guilty.
If you say even one thing that police can prove isn't true ("I've never even been there, officer!") then they have you on record lying to police and all of a sudden there is a case against you. Having a lawyer present means someone at your side who can make sure you don't accidentally incriminate yourself.
Even if you say nothing that isn't true, and you are completely innocent, giving a statement can still be dangerous as it gives prosecutors a summary of what you're likely to say at trial, which they can use to try and find a way to bring a case against you.
The Police Just Want My Help
When police speak to an individual to obtain a statement, they often phrase it to imply they just want to get to the bottom of things, and want help understanding what happened.
What they will not admit is that they probably already plan to lay a charge, and are hoping that you will say something that can be used against you. Refusing to give a statement or answer questions is almost never obstructing justice (there are exceptions; for example, if you are part of a vehicle collision you may be required to answer questions).
It Cannot Help You
We've looked at a lot of ways talking to police can harm you, but the best reason for not speaking to police without a lawyer present is that it simply cannot help your case. Even if you say something exculpatory to police, that statement is not admissible as evidence at trial, because it qualifies as hearsay. If it can't help, and can only hurt, the best option is just not to do it.
When you find yourself in a situation where you're being asked for information by a police officer, it is important to remember that you are a person with rights before the law. It isn't your job to do the police's work for them, and the person you have the most responsibility for is yourself. So if you find yourself being questioned, remember the crime show cliché: "I get my phone call."