You may think that you have to answer the questions that police are asking you, but the truth is that you do not. In fact, the only information you have to give police is your name – and in many cases – leaving it at that may make the most sense.
All too often, people falsely believe that by answering police questions, they are cooperating and thereby showing their innocence. Police will often even act like this is the case, but this is not necessarily true. In fact, you could be incriminating yourself, without even realizing it.
Here are some common misconceptions when it comes to police questioning and interrogations.
Myth 1: You legally have to talk to police
You do not need to answer police questioning. End of story. The only information you do have to provide is your name, if they ask. Aside from that – you do not need to answer any other questions. You can invoke your right to remain silent, in a respectful way, by simply saying, “I am invoking my right to remain silent,” or “I’d like to have my lawyer present before I answer any questions.”
Myth 2: Once questioning begins, you can no longer invoke your Miranda rights
When a police officer says that you have the right to remain silent and that anything you say can and will be used against you – this is the Miranda warning. However, if an officer has told you this – and you have started to answer questions – but now want to stop, you can do so. At any point in questioning, you can decide you no longer want to answer questions.
You can do this by either remaining silent, saying you do not want to answer any more questions or saying that you would like your lawyer to be present.
Myth 3: Saying you want a lawyer present means you are guilty
All too often people think they are showing their innocence by talking to police. They want to show they have nothing to hide, so they start answering questions without having a lawyer present.
Unfortunately, while this thinking makes sense in theory, it does not work in practice. Police can misconstrue – or even misunderstand – what you are saying. This means these same words that you think are helping your case, are really only hurting your case.
Contrary to what many might think, saying you want a lawyer present does not make you look bad. It just shows that you understand and are utilizing your Firth Amendment right.