Dealing With the Police 101

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 01:  Shackles for slav...

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Last night, a friend called me up and asked me to accompany him to the police station.  The police had knocked on his door, waking up his girlfriend while he was out.   When he called, they wouldn’t tell him why they wanted to talk to him.   Was it an ex trying to make his life difficult or one of his employees getting investigated?

This friend has had a number of interactions with the police, but never learned how to deal with them.  Before we left, I gave him a crash course in “stay out of jail”.

Lesson 1:  The Police Are Not Your Friends.

During an investigation, you are a suspect.   They are looking for a conviction.   There may be a “good cop” trying to “help you out”, but he is trying to put you in jail.  “Protect and Serve” doesn’t mean you.  In general, it means society as a whole.  During an investigation, they are serving the interests of the prosecutor.

Generally, they are going to look at you–as the target of their investigation–as the enemy.  This is normal.  They spend all of their time dealing with scumbags and s***heads.   Naturally, they start to assume that everyone who isn’t a cop will fall into one of those categories.

Don’t get pissed when they act rude, ignore you, or anything else.  It isn’t a lack of professionalism, it’s just a different profession.   They are using interrogation techniques that have been proven successful.   Ignore it and focus on Lesson 2.

It will feel wrong to disobey the authority you’ve been taught your entire life to obey.  You’re not.  You are standing by your rights.  Nobody cares about your future more than you do.  Certainly not the guy investigating you.

Lesson 2:  Your Lawyer is Your Friend.

The second a police interaction starts to look like they are investigating you, demand your lawyer, then see Lesson 4.    When you demand an attorney, they stop asking you questions.   You can take it back and start talking, so again, see Lesson 4.  It’s your attorney’s job to talk to the police and, if necessary, the media.  It’s your job to talk to your attorney.

You don’t need an attorney ahead of time.  Criminal defense attorneys are used to getting calls at 3AM.  It’s part of their job.   If you have a low enough income as defined by whatever jurisdiction you are being investigated in, you can get a public defender.   That’s better than nothing, but I’d prefer to hire a professional shark, even if it means mortgaging my future.   Prison is a big gamble.

Lesson 3.  Consent is Your Enemy.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

“Officer, I do not consent to any search and I would like to speak to my attorney.”  Remember this.  Memorize it.

They need probable cause, a warrant, or permission to search your stuff.   Never agree to it.   Don’t stop them if they search anyway, but never, ever agree to a search.   If the search is done improperly, your lawyer(see Lesson 2) will get the results of that searched thrown out.

It isn’t possible to get into more trouble for standing by your rights.  There is no crime on the books anywhere in the US called “Refused Consent to Search”.   Your day will not go worse because you defended your Constitutional rights.

Lesson 4.  Shut Up.

I know a few defense attorneys.   According to them, most of the people in jail either committed a crime in front of a bunch of witnesses, or they talked their way into jail.   Shut up.   You’ll want to either justify or defend yourself depending on the circumstances.  Don’t.  Shut up.  It may be one of the hardest things you ever do, but keep your mouth closed.  The only thing worse than talking is lying.  Don’t lie, just keep quiet.

There is nothing you are going to say that will make your interrogator invite you home for Christmas.   He isn’t your friend, you won’t meet his parents, you aren’t going to his birthday party.   There is absolutely no win in talking to him.  Shut up.   The answer to every question is “Lawyer.”  If the only thing you say babble is “Lawyerlawyerlawyerlawyerlawyerlawyer”, you’re probably not going to do too badly.

In your car, the dynamic changes a bit, but the principles don’t.  When a cop pulls you over, don’t argue.  You can’t win an argument with a cop on the side of the road.  Be nice, be polite, and as soon as possible, pull into a parking lot and take as many notes about the encounter as you can.   If you are planning to fight whatever he pulled you over for, don’t give him any reason to remember you or spin his official report to make you look bad.    Again, shut up.  Catching a theme?

Gambling With Your Future

If you are being investigated by the police, your future–or some part of it–is on the line.   While you are gambling with your criminal record and your freedom, don’t forget that you are an amateur in this arena.  The police, the prosecutor, and your attorney are the professionals and the stakes can be huge.  Keep your mouth shut, call your attorney, and thank me later.

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    1. Well said, i respect your point but i have my on too.

    2. My mom pretty much taught me these lessons on accident. She always told me to be very respectful for authority figures but never trust anybody completely…and always think about their ulterior motives. With cops, it’s closing cases. Great advice!

    3. We just took a gun safety and training course here in MN and they gave much the same advice as far as what to do if you’re involved in a self defense shooting.

      That you should always choose to remain silent after giving the basics (this person is a witness, this person has been shot, etc) and not give details about what transpired without an attorney. They also said not to consent to a search as it is your right, and that they’ve personally seen people consent to a search thinking they had nothing to hide, only to have teenage child get caught with drugs, or something else. If they search anyway, go along with it, but at least you didn’t consent.

      They also mentioned how people in the heat of the moment want to justify their actions, or get the cops on their side, but remember that they’re not your friends, even if they act like they are. Give the basics, then ask for your lawyer..

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