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Legal Talk: Police Confidants – A Bad Idea

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For the record, I like and admire police officers. If you are one, then this article really won’t be of interest to you.

Psst – are they gone? Then be warned – police officers aren’t your friends.

But you knew that already, didn’t you? All of those shows and articles about stupid criminals blurting out confessions – you are way too smart for that.

That’s why you would never fall for this conversational gambit used by officers at a midnight traffic stop.

“Would you please give me your license and insurance card?”

“Been to a restaurant tonight?”

“Did you have anything to drink?”

“Did you realize that you changed lanes back there without a blinker?”

“Can I search your car?”

You would have halted the conversation – where, exactly?

You would know exactly how to handle this inquiry by an officer at your front door.

“We would like to ask you some questions. May we come in?”

You know all about the division of authority between the district attorney and the police. The police charge you with the crime and the DA prosecutes, right? That’s why cooperating with the police is always in your best interest. “I can’t promise anything, but the DA will go easier on you if you’ll just lead me to the body.”

You know how to answer this favorite lead. “We had a report that you downloaded some pictures on your computer. Could we examine it?”

You know that it’s a great opportunity to set the record straight when the officer asks you to come down to the police station to give a statement.

You would never forget that your entire police encounter is being videotaped. From the car stop to the ride to the police station to your demeanor while being fingerprinted – even while you were standing alone in a room. No – you would never slur your words, shift nervously, or comment on the officer’s ancestry.

The unpleasant truth is that when you are under stress, it is hard to draw the line between being polite and asserting your rights. With thousands of laws on the books, it’s difficult to even know all of your rights.

So give the officer your license and insurance card. Don’t volunteer about your night’s activities, or admit that you’ve had anything to drink or committed a lane change infraction. Say no to searching your car, coming into the home, or going to the station house to give a statement. It is seldom a good idea to lead the police to the body.

And your defense attorney will thank you if you don’t sign a confession.

Virginia Hammerle is a Denton County attorney Board Certified in Civil Trial Law. For more information, visit www.hammerle.com or contact her at vnh@hammerle.com.

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