Giving a Statement to Police Officers: A Criminal Defense Lawyer | Attorney’s Perspective
As Criminal Defense lawyers | attorneys, we hear this question a lot. Those who gave statements to the police officer during an investigation, do so based on some general beliefs and assumptions:
- Why not give a statement if you have nothing to hide?
- If you tell the police what happened, they might understand and not arrest you or go easier on you.
- If you did it, admitting it to police officers makes the prosecutor and court go easier on you.
- Without a statement, an officer will arrest you because they do not know both sides of the story.
- Officers get angry if you do not give a statement and are more likely to arrest you.
- If they haven’t arrested you, you might be able to talk your way out of it
- If they have arrested you, you still might be able to talk your way out of it.
There are problems with these beliefs and assumptions.
Prosecutors, Juries and Judges Decide Cases, Not Police Officers. Police officers are trained authority figures that investigate crimes by collecting facts and evidence. In today’s world, officers have almost no discretion to make charging decisions due to liability and policy. Prosecuting attorneys have the final call on all charging decisions and if the facts support a reasonable chance of conviction of a crime, a prosecuting attorney will almost always file. It is the prosecuting attorneys who make final charging decisions as well as weigh cases for plea or trial based on the facts they have available to prove their case and, sometimes, the politics of a particular situation. Officers collect evidence, write reports and support the charging prosecuting attorney in criminal prosecutions. Any promise a police officer makes is, at best, a good intention, or it is just another method a trained authority figure uses to induce you to give a statement, facts or evidence. Any annoyance a police officer has with you refusing to give a statement is just another form of pressure to get you to give a statement they know you do not have to give. Ever heard of “good cop, bad cop” … it is just another technique of getting information. If an officer is going to arrest you, nothing you say or do can change that. All you have done is locked yourself into a statement as the officer remembers it and/or wrote it down.
Statements are Subject to Bias, Memory and Conflicting Facts. Every experienced criminal defense lawyer | attorney worth their salt knows this. The problem is that once a police officer takes a statement and swears that this is what he / she heard, if you change your story, you are lying because officers do not lie, officers do not make mistakes, and officers are not biased. This set of three assumptions is intrinsic to our entire criminal system and whether it is true or not, juries need to and do believe this as a generality. Certainly, it is fair to say that defendants have a lot more reasons to lie than officers do and this “truth” is used quite a bit in courtrooms. Trying to explain away a misstatement is a lot harder than giving no statement at all till you meet with an experienced counsel, look at the evidence against you and then, and only then, consider your options.
Statements are Admissible.
Keep in mind that until you are arrested (when this happens, it is a grey area you should discuss with counsel), your statements are admissible without requiring standard Miranda warnings; so, any statements made before an arrest will be noted and put into a report, just as any statements given after a Miranda warning will be used unless you clearly assert your right to counsel or your right to remain silent and stop talking.
If they don’t hear my side of the story, they will arrest me. The toughest part of this statement is that it is, in part, true. Hearing your side of the story may prevent you from being arrested, but it also may not. When weighing whether you want to take this risk, you must weigh everything else said above and consider when the best time to give a statement is: Is it before speaking with your lawyer and knowing the evidence against you? Are you certain your story will be written down correctly? Is the investigator biased? The problem is that if you are going to give a statement, giving a recorded statement on your terms is the golden standard: it is what a trial is all about.
The criminal defense lawyers | attorneys in our office have handled an enormous number of complicated cases in the criminal arena over the course of our lengthy criminal law careers. We are a unique blend of courtroom experience, knowledge, skills and temperament. Our lawyers know criminal cases are rarely as simple as the police reports claim and our clients hire us because they want staunch and effective counsel who takes the time to make sure their clients’ rights are protected. Whether our role is as legal counsel, negotiator, or litigator, we have years of experience fighting and resolving cases with our clients’ best interests in mind.