It is a natural human instinct, when questioned by anyone, but especially an authority figure, about any wrongdoing , to deny, explain or minimize one’s fault. But talking to police is one of the biggest mistakes any potential suspect can make, regardless of guilt or innocence.
More than 60 years ago, in Watts v. Indiana, 338 U.S. 49, 59 (1949), Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, a jurist with decades of experience as a prosecutor, including the U.S. Chief of Counsel for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg, Germany, wrote that “any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to police under any circumstances.”
There are multiple reasons for invoking your right to remain silent, and they are true in virtually every case.
You have nothing to gain by talking. Once an officer has determined that he or she has cause to stop or arrest you, you are not going to be able to use your charisma or oratorical skill to talk them out of it. Ask any police officer at any level of enforcement how many times they have been charmed or persuaded into dropping a matter, particularly a DUI, and you will consistently be told, “never.”
You have nothing to gain by talking because, under the rules of evidence, while anything you say can be used against you, nothing you say can be used FOR you. Self-incriminating matters are considered “admissions” and always come into evidence. Exculpatory statements are considered “self-serving hearsay,” and are normally barred from admission into evidence.
You have nothing to gain in terms of bargaining, because the police officer is not the person who makes the bargains. That would be the prosecutor, and the more cards you deal to the prosecutor by talking to police, the more likely you will strengthen their bargaining position and weaken your own.
You have nothing to gain in terms of potential punishment, because it is the judge, not the police officer, who makes that decision. If, at a later date, you want to make statements of contrition or apologies, you will have plenty of opportunities to do so, and to a person who is actually attempting to understand you, rather than a person whose primary job is to gather evidence against you.
You are also gambling that the police officer accurately writes down what you said. If you have to go into court at a later time, and convince the jury that you did not say exactly what the officer said you said, or that it was taken out of context. In this situation, you have just made your lawyer’s job twice as hard. And most times, the jury is going to assume that the officer’s account is more reliable than yours since, whether you are telling the truth or not, you will always have a “motive to lie.”
You can inadvertently incriminate yourself in ways you did not foresee. There are literally thousands of crimes and tens of thousands of administratively-defined offenses in state and federal law, and you could be supplying the elements for prosecution for offenses you did not even know about.
Even a completely exculpatory statement in a situation where you are indeed one-hundred percent innocent can come back to destroy your case. For example, you tell police that you were nowhere near a certain location when a crime was committed. And you weren’t. But the prosecution finds a witness who thinks (whether in good faith or bad faith) that they saw you somewhere in that general area at the time. Now it is your word against theirs, and you have to win that battle or be convicted even though, without your statement, being in the general area would not have been enough to prove you guilty.
If, in the course of your statement, you exaggerate or minimize any aspect of anything you say, that can be used against you, to show that you gave false information.
If you make any concession at all, rest assured that will be one less thing that the prosecution will have to prove and one more thing that you will have to deal with.
There are multiple reasons why competent defense lawyers never allow their clients to speak with police. You have a fundamental constitutional right to remain silent, and there is a reason why that right is embedded in the Fifth Amendment as well as almost every state’s constitution. Assert that right at the earliest opportunity, and your case will be far easier to defend, in every case, regardless of your ultimate guilt or innocence.
Tiftickjian Law Firm provides DUI defense in Denver and across Colorado. If you have been charged with a DUI or traffic offense, contact a Denver attorney at (303) 991-5896 or visit www.criminallawdenver.com today.