When you interact with the police because of a traffic stop or as part of questioning for an investigation it is very easy to think that the police officers are “on your side” or trying to be helpful. More often than not, this is exactly what they want you to think. Police are trained to get people to volunteer information. I am not saying that police are out to get you or to find a reason to slap on the handcuffs. The important factor to remember is that the police are there to gather information which may or may not result in your arrest. Make no mistake; you should always comply with the officers' requests when you are required to do so. Often people do not know what they are required to do and what they can politely refuse. Some general rules to follow are:
Police Interrogation or Interview
If you are being questioned as part of an investigation it is important to not give a statement without an attorney. The necessity of an attorney is true even if you are giving a statement as a witness or a friend of an accused. Often, it is unclear what angle law enforcement may be taking regarding the line of question or what they may be alluding to as part of their investigation.
If you are the accused, it is crucial that you have an attorney with you while you are being questioned by the police. However, in Indiana you have to specifically say “I want an attorney”. Statements such as, “I may need an attorney” or “Do you think I should get a lawyer” are not enough. If you are under arrest, it is imperative to stop talking and wait for your lawyer. If you are wearing handcuffs, lawyer up and then shut up!
Am I free to leave?
If you are not under arrest, your next question should be, “Am I free to leave?”. If the answer is yes, then leave. The officer or detective may want to follow up with you to ask more questions at a later time and he or she may ask if that would be OK. Always have all questions directed to your attorney. You should remain polite and respectful while you go through this process. You will get along much better in the long run if you “play nice”.
If they answer no, then ask if you are under arrest. If the answer is no, then ask to contact an attorney. At this point you need to follow the short rule from mentioned above “lawyer up and then shut up!”
Always Be Respectful
You will get a lot further with law enforcement if you show them respect. Arguing and fighting is most certainly going to result in being put in handcuffs. If this happens, see rule mentioned above. Police are people doing a job. Sometimes they have bad days and come across as rude or arrogant. Giving them attitude and being disrespectful will not help in any situation.
Even if you don’t agree with the what the police are telling you to do just comply with the officer's request. People try to talk their way out of trouble or talk in lieu of following instruction. I cannot think of one instance when someone talked their way-out of trouble with the police. More likely, you are talking your way into more trouble.
Ultimately, you want to avoid giving the police or investigators your conviction on a silver platter by talking too much. Do not think that you are smarter than the police or investigator. They complete hours and hours of training in questioning and interrogation. Always request a lawyer. Don’t volunteer information without a lawyer present. Always be respectful and follow the instructions of the police. This is not a way to keep from going to jail but it will help prevent you from putting yourself there because of you big mouth.