What Should I Say If a Detective Calls to Ask Me Questions?

Our office is frequently asked the above question, to which we almost always tell the potential client that the best thing to do is:
  1. Tell the officer you respect him and the tough job he does every day;
  2. Tell the officer you have spoken to an attorney and wish to follow the attorney’s advice to remain silent.  You can then give the officer the name of your attorney.
Then remain silent.  We give this advice for several basic reasons.  Officers are very hungry for respect, so if you clearly tell them you respect them, bluntly, the officer’s aggressiveness may abate.  The officer will also be shocked and pleasantly surprised.  Too often, suspects cuss out the police and hang up.  Pass the respect test first and foremost.

Second, by telling the officer that you are following the advice of an attorney, you give the police officer an “easy out.”  He is supposed to cease all questioning immediately and terminate his phone call.

This often does not happen, however.  We often hear of officers, instead, responding in several ways, ranging from “well, then we will have to arrest you” to “if you can answer just a few questions, we plan on dismissing the case.”  Or the officer can say, “we have a video of you” or “a witness is going to send you to prison.”  Please recall that an approved investigative technique for law enforcement is to misstate the truth to elicit a confession.  Officers are allowed to lie to investigate.

This article suggests the best way to handle any all of these responses is to simply next tell the officer, “I am going to hang up now.”  Do not argue with the police officer or attempt to “joust” with him.  Certainly do not threaten to sue the officer or explain that your close relative is a police officer, if that is true.
Then do so and call your attorney to report the phone call.

Depending on the nature of the case and the facts, the attorney may want to contact the detective.
 
The worst thing you can possibly do is try to discuss the facts of the case with the detective, naively trusting that the officer will like you or believe you.  Our office has seen more clients convict themselves by trying to explain their conduct and thereby admitting to the acts that are a crime.
 
In one of worst cases, our client was suspected of very minor domestic violence.  The client’s girlfriend had reported a fight she and our client had, wherein she admitted to throwing a light table at our client and in response, he pushed her down to the ground.  The police did not like the girlfriend and told our client this much.

Our client immediately trusted the police officer and believed he had some rapport with him.  He proceeded to explain the day’s events, where he found her cheating on him and dragged her to his truck, locked the doors and drove her back to the apartment.  He explained how he told the cheating man that he would kill him later, but confided to the police that he was just joking.  The police officer responded, “yeah, I get it.”
 
As he was driving his girlfriend back to the apartment, she repeatedly tried to get out of the truck, but he held her in.
 
He was then arrested and not charged with just misdemeanor domestic violence, but felony kidnapping by use of force, criminal threats and felony domestic violence.  He went to prison for six years, to be served at 85% minimum.  The client had changed his exposure from probation with no custody time to completely ruining his life.
 
When our clients explain to police that they do not want to talk, police often claim, “I just have two or three questions.  It will only take a minute of two.”  The police may then, to build trust, just blurt out a simple question.  The smart client will then just repeat, “I am going to hang up now.”

For more information about interactions with police in general, please click on the following articles:
  1. Ten Things to Do If Stopped for DUI
  2. Defendant’s Confession to Arson After Nine Hours of Police Questioning Is Admissible Despite No Miranda Warnings Because Defendant Always Free to Leave
  3. A Person’s Silence After a Car Crash Before Being Given Miranda Warnings Can Be Used Against That Person
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