If you are like the average person, any interaction you have had with law enforcement has been limited to calling them for help because you were the victim of a crime or because you needed their help for some reason. Understandably, you may not know how to handle the situation if you suddenly find yourself in a totally different role. What should you do if the police now wish to talk to you about an ongoing investigation in which you are not the victim? Do you need a lawyer if they just want to talk to you? An experienced Tennessee defense attorney explains why you should never speak to the police without consulting an attorney first.
Knock Knock — Who’s There?
Imagine sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon with your family when someone knocks on the front door. When you look outside, you see two law enforcement officers on your doorstep. Ultimately, they tell you they would just like to “talk” to you for a few minutes. Do you invite them in and have a chat? Do you ask them why they want to talk to you? Do you refuse the even open the door or politely decline the request to talk to them and shut the door? If you have never before been in this situation, the odds are good that you aren’t certain how you should respond.
Why Would the Police Want to “Talk” to You?
When a detective is investigating a crime, he/she will attempt to interview a number of people. Those people fall into one of several categories – victim, witness, “person of interest,” and suspect. If you are not the victim, always assume you are a suspect, because in the eyes of a detective you probably are. Although the American judicial system operates under the presumption of innocence, law enforcement officers do not always do so. A true witness is someone who has absolutely no connection to anyone or anything related to the case. A bystander who just happened to be around when a theft or assault occurred. Others may originally be referred to as witnesses; however, most law enforcement officers assume that a witness can become a “person of interest” very quickly. A “person of interest” can then become a suspect just as rapidly. This is one of the many reasons why you should never agree to talk to the police without first consulting with a lawyer.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer If the Police Want to Talk to Me?
One of the biggest mistakes the average person makes is operating under the belief that if you are innocent, there is no reason not to talk to the police. This mindset can land you in jail with criminal charges filed against you. Whenever a police officer wants to “talk” to you, remember a few things, including:
- It is a detective’s job to solve a crime. That means he/she need to identify a suspect and build a case against that suspect. He/she is not your friend nor does he/she have your best interests at heart. Instead, that detective’s primary objective is to find someone for the prosecuting attorney to prosecute.
- A detective is trained at interrogation techniques. He/she questions people all day long, every day. You may think you are just having a friendly chat; however, that “chat” is really an interrogation.
- Being innocent is not a defense during a “chat.” If you are innocent, your defense attorney will hopefully be able to prove that at your trial – many months down the road.
- It is very easy to say something that can be misconstrued, taken out of context, and used against you. A detective is listening for things that point to you being a suspect, not to things that point to your innocence.
Finally, do not get stuck on the mistaken belief that asking to speak to a lawyer makes you appear guilty. First, odds are very good that the officer already thinks you could be guilty or he/she wouldn’t want to talk to you. Second, you are in no way obligated to speak to a law enforcement officer. Third, the truth is that asking to consult with your lawyer first makes you appear smart, not necessarily guilty. Finally, even if it does make you appear guilty, the State still has to prove your guilt so, on balance, it is always better to have a police officer think you are guilty but not be able to prove anything because you exercised your right to remain silent than to waive your right to remain silent and say something that ends up getting you arrested.
Contact a Tennessee Defense Attorney
If a police officer wishes to speak to you in Tennessee, it is in your best interests to respectfully decline to talk to the officer and consult with an experienced defense attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.