The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution is among the most powerful and most important. It says, among other things, that you cannot be compelled to answer any questions asked by any government agent where the answers would be or potentially could be self-incriminating.
For example, when you are stopped by a cop and asked if you know why he stopped you…if you say yes and tell him the reason, then you have admitted to violating some law. The answers to questions as seemingly innocuous as where are you headed or where are you coming from can be used against you.
Of course, exercising your right not to answer police questions will probably piss them off. So be it. It is not your responsibility to waive your Constitutional rights to keep them happy.
I often get calls from people who have been contacted by a detective about one thing or another. The detective usually says something like “I am investigating such-and-such and I need to ask you a few questions.” If you want to talk with them, fine. However, you have absolutely no duty to do so. Furthermore, if they are looking to you, you should assume that they believe you have some involvement.
If you know you have absolutely nothing to do with what they are investigating, you may be tempted to start talking. Remember, you don’t know what they are really investigating; it is quite possible that the reason they gave you is a lie just to get you to start talking and feeling comfortable and when the questions turn to something about which you are aware or are involved, it will be too late.
Your best response to a call from a detective is to contact a lawyer BEFORE you make any statements to the detective. Let your lawyer analyze the situation and talk with the detective. If you happen to answer the phone when the detective calls, simply tell him: “Thank you for the call, but I am going to consult an attorney before I talk to you.” He will scramble and try to tell you why you don’t need to do that; the harder he tries to get you to not talk to a lawyer, the more you know he wants information from you – and about you. Don’t give in.
If he threatens to get a warrant and have you arrested if you don’t talk to him, hang up the phone and call a lawyer immediately!
Sometimes, the detective will just show up out of nowhere and arrest you. When that happens, say NOTHING!
It is very common for detectives to come and take people into custody so they can question them without interference from pesky lawyers; this is where your right to remain silent is most critical. Usually they show up in the middle of the night or early in the morning when you are sleeping and not able to think quickly, they scare the crap out of you with guns and handcuffs and you start yapping because you think it will help you get back to bed faster; it won’t.
Any time you are arrested, the only thing you say is: “I’m invoking my right to remain silent and I will not answer any questions without a lawyer present. I want a lawyer.” Then, nothing.
When you do that, you will be confronted with all kinds of cop tricks; they will talk to each other in front of you about you; they will say things like “we know he’s innocent, but since he asked for a lawyer, we cannot let him go” or “If he would just answer a couple questions, we could let him out” or some other nonsense like that; it’s a lie. Don’t fall for it. Cops don’t arrest people because they want to let them go. I actually had a cop tell a client that, since he asked for a lawyer, they HAD to arrest him.That’s just stupid.
The last thing I want to say is this: It’s hard to catch a fish whose mouth is closed.