I get lots of calls from people asking me for my help, and advice pre-arrest. The police have called them or banged on their door, and just want to talk with them.
Question Number One: Should they give or make a statement to the police?
Question Number Two: Should they answer police questions?
Some Typical Scenarios:
The police found something. A backpack, a car part or the car itself, a wallet, or a laptop.
The police got a call. Someone heard something, someone saw something, or someone knows something?
Before you go helping the police, before making admissions, what are you really doing? Are you really helping them to charge YOU with some crime? Are you going to give them evidence? Are you going to implicate (great word) yourself? Are they your friend?
Understanding the ONE WAY STREET
In my quest to explain the intersection of law enforcement and police interrogation I am once again dumbfounded by the amount of misinformation online. The internet is a marvelous thing but with one main caveat, don't believe everything you read. Just because it is posted online don't make it true. Seeking answers to questions from people with no background, training, or experience can be a recipe for disaster.
In my last blog I explained why police are allowed to lie to the public to further their criminal investigations. See Ithaca Lawyer Blog, February 28, 2012. In this blog I want to show and further explain the other side, why you are not permitted to lie to the police. Seems unfair on the surface, this one way street but in truth that is why we have the Miranda Warnings and criminal defense lawyers. They exist to bring balance to the powers that be.
WHY THE POLICE MUST LIE
The lesser of evils is that we as a society want perpetrators to be uncovered, and brought to justice. Law enforcement must use "information gathering techniques" to catch rapists, murderers, robbers, and to remove dangerous people. Life is truly a balancing act, and this is also the case with police behavior. If police were always straight and honest could they get information? Maybe, but at what cost? If we want them (the police) to be quick and effective then we also want them to have an advantage over criminals (those who lie as a profession), and so we allow them this leeway to interrogate using lies. Kinda like the story of the scorpion and the frog, the scorpion (stinging frogs) will always act true to it's nature. Police are in the profession of law enforcement.
WHY YOU MUST NOT LIE TO THE POLICE
Let's go through some of the crimes with which you will be charged for lying to the police:
1. Giving a false name and DOB = Criminal Impersonation 2nd
2. Giving a False Statement
3. Falsely Reporting a Crime
4. Falsely Reporting an Incident
5. Lying Under Oath = Perjury
6. Obstructing justice
Why can't you lie when they can?
The one main reason, is that they are doing a job, they are investigating crime, they are enforcing the law and you are impeding that effort by not being truthful. Your lie may cost time and money. Your lie may prevent, block, or impede their investigation. Depending on the context, your lie may allow and facilitate further crimes.
YOUR TRUE PROTECTION FROM POLICE LIES
When you are accused and arrested for a crime "You" have one main protection from the government, and law enforcement interrogation techniques. You must invoke your Miranda Rights.
YOU have a right to remain silent.
YOU have a right to an attorney.
YOU have a right to have an attorney present (with you) during questioning.
Why would you NOT want these? These rights came as the result of decades of injustice.
These are RIGHTS. You have to get them but you must be proactive. You must speak up.
THE FOUR WORDS
Say "I want a lawyer."
This stops everything. All questioning. All lying. All harassing behavior.
Have a lawyer present during any questioning. This is your ultimate protection.
This balances out the overwhelming power and authority of the government.
Law Offices of Lawrence Newman
504 N. Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850