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Pop Quiz: Should You Talk to The Cops? The Criminal Defense Attorney In Me Says: HELL NO!



*****Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client privilege.


You are driving home, the vehicle your driving does not belong to you, it is borrowed. You know that it is registered and you have insurance. You are on the highway going the speed limit. As you change lanes with your blinker on, you see the blue flashing lights in your rearview mirror. You head off the freeway exit and are asked to pull over by the sheriff. At this point, you should pull over, put your hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them. The idea is to not make any sudden movements and to allow the police officer to see your hands at all times. You can even reassure the office everything is ok and you are seeking to comply with this detention.

At this stage, if you can identify that you are the target of a criminal investigation, then you should not attempt to volunteer any information. In fact, only listen and follow commands. If the officer asks you do you know why you stopped me you should remain silent. As the officer if they would like to see your license and registration. If they state yes then provide them such. After providing them such if they ask you anymore questions you should ask them if you are free to leave. If they say no then you are in custody. Once in custody any additional questions are custodial interrogation which under the 4th and 5th Amendments of the constitution mean you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

At this point, you should invoke those rights. If they on the other hand say you are free to leave then you should leave and go to the safest place which may be your home, your personal attorney’s office. Certainly call an attorney immediately and document what happened. If they take you into custody once you ask if you are free to leave and they say no then you should advise them you are invoking your right to remain silent and have an attorney present. THEN REMAIN SILENT. Remember anything you say or do can be used against you in a court of law. This is real and true.

If you can identify that you ARE NOT the target of the investigation or an investigation then generally speaking it is best to answer identifying information and innocuous questions. However, be weary of long extended detentions and friendly chatter with police officers. Remember that the police are by law allowed to lie to you about the facts in a case (even if that gets you to admit to something) but they are not allowed to lie to you about your rights. Also, recognize that each type of police has its own jurisdiction. So the highway patrols jurisdiction is the highway. The local police’s jurisdiction is the local city that they police such as Temple City police have jurisdiction in Temple City, CA and San Gabriel police have jurisdiction in San Gabriel, CA. That is not to say that police won’t act outside of their jurisdiction but generally speaking it needs to be a pretty serious offense that is endangering one or more persons for them to cross over jurisdiction. This is in part because whoever makes the “bust” won’t get credit if it is outside of their jurisdiction; they’ll have to turn over the “bust” to the local authorities.

So back to the being pulled over and now you’ve either been given a warning, a ticket, or been taken into custody. Again friendly reminder at any point that you ascertain that you are the target of an investigation don’t talk to the cops. Remember if you are in custody being interrogated your best move is to ask for an attorney, remind them you have a right to remain silent, and remain silent. Why because anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

So Pop Quiz:

  • You are being pulled over? Do you stop? Yes

  • You have stopped. The cop asks “do you know why we pulled you over.”

  • You answer - would you like to see my registration and insurance?

  • Answer Yes - Do you give it to them? Yes

  • Answer No - you at this point realize you are the target of an investigation.

  • You ask am I free to leave - Answer No - what do you do?

  • Remain silent; ask to have an attorney present.

  • Answer Yes - what do you do?

  • Go to your home or your attorney’s office/home.

  • Do you talk to the cops? No - why?

  • Because anything you say can and will be used against you.

This may not be the same if you are a victim of a crime or a witness to a crime and in no way would I ever suggest not cooperating with an investigation under those circumstances BUT if you are the target of the investigation or if you have ANY CONCERN THAT YOU MAY BE THE TARGET OF THE INVESTIGATION THEN YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO NOT COOPERATE AND REMAIN SILENT.

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