Should I Talk to the Police If I Haven’t Been Arrested?

Should I Talk to the Police If I Haven’t Been Arrested? Maybe you made a mistake. Maybe you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe you feel that you have absolutely nothing to hide. Whatever the reason, if you find yourself in the company of police – particularly police who want to ask you questions and have you answer those questions without an attorney present – you should not talk with them. While you may think it is fine to have a little chat with the police if you have not been arrested, nothing could be further from the truth. In this situation, silence, as the saying goes, is golden.

While this may sound overly cautious or even a bit paranoid, it is in your best interest and may protect you from self-incrimination – even if you were not involved in any kind of criminal activity.

Anything you say can be used against you.

When police are investigating an alleged crime, they do not waste their time speaking with people who they believe know nothing about the incident. They may cast a wide net at the start of an investigation, speaking to a lot of people as they learn as much as possible about the incident. However, unless you are the victim of said alleged crime, it is best to assume that if the police speak with you, there is a reason. They may approach you seeking information, but rest assured, if you say anything that catches their interest or makes them suspicious, they will follow up by looking more closely at you, your life, and your activity. If they can tie you to the alleged crime – or any other criminal activity – they will.

Speaking with the police could cause you to unintentionally incriminate yourself, and your words may be used against you. While you may believe that you understand the criminal process based on what you have seen in television shows and movies, what you know about the criminal process may be completely inaccurate. For instance, it is important to note that while the police are required to read your Miranda Rights, also known as a Miranda Warning, before any official interrogation, they are not required to do so before a conversation when you have not been taken into custody or arrested. This includes during or immediately after stopping you based on reasonable suspicion.

I haven’t done anything. Why shouldn’t I answer a few questions without a lawyer?

You may have heard stories about people who give false confessions to law enforcement and are then arrested and charged with a crime based on their confession. This is more common than you may think, and there are reasons why it happens. Two of the primary reasons are:

  • Being questioned by the police can be scary and stressful. Even if you have not knowingly done anything wrong, being questioned by law enforcement can be a frightening experience. Being questioned when the police consider you or someone you know to be a possible suspect in a crime can be downright terrifying. The fear and stress involved in being questioned by law enforcement may cause you to become confused and lead you to say something you do not mean to say.
  • Police have many ways to get people to talk. Not all of those tactics are above board. Police have a variety of tactics they can – and often do – legally use to get information out of people. One of those tactics that may come as a surprise to you is that law enforcement is legally permitted to lie during criminal investigations. In fact, it is routine for police here in Central Texas to do so. For instance, police may lie about evidence that they have or have not gathered and how it may or may not connect to you or someone you know or with whom you are somehow associated. They may even lie and say that they have a witness who saw you commit a crime or who can place you at the scene of a crime. Similarly, law enforcement may claim to have security or other video footage that proves you were somehow involved in the alleged crime.

The bottom line is that the police are not on your side. Even if you are certain that you have not done anything wrong or illegal, you must remember that law enforcement’s goal is to solve the crime – not to protect your best interest or prove your innocence. On the other hand, protecting your best interest is your attorney’s primary goal.

How does having a lawyer present protect me?

Having an attorney present when you are questioned by police – even if the conversation is informal – ensures that your rights are protected. An experienced criminal defense lawyer like those at Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm can ensure police follow all laws and regulations regarding questioning, and will advise you regarding what questions you may or may not answer without incriminating yourself.

While you may worry that asking for a lawyer will make you look guilty in some way, that is not true. Having a lawyer present will help ensure you only provide police with the information you are required to give them under the law, and more importantly, that you do not inadvertently incriminate yourself in a crime.

What should I say to police who want to speak with me?

If police approach you and want to speak with you, it is important to know exactly what information you are required to provide. In Texas, you are only required to give law enforcement your name, residence address, or date of birth if you have been arrested and the police have requested that information. If you fail to identify yourself under those circumstances – or if you provide false information about your name, residence address, or date of birth to law enforcement that has arrested, legally detained you, or who has “good cause” to believe you are a witness to a criminal offense – you may be charged with failure to identify. This can be a  Class B or Class A misdemeanor depending on the circumstances, but may be the least of your worries.

In other words, unless you are actually placed under arrest, it is best not to say anything to police except that you would like to speak with an attorney. If the police approach you, simply tell them that you are not comfortable speaking with them without your attorney present. Do not let law enforcement intimidate or trick you into answering questions without a lawyer. It is always in your best interest to keep quiet until you have consulted a qualified Killeen or Copperas Cove criminal defense lawyer like the attorneys at Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm – and to have a lawyer with you while you speak with the police.

If law enforcement wants to speak with you regarding any alleged crime, it is important that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible. From our offices in Killeen and Copperas Cove, the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm represent clients throughout Central Texas, including Temple, Belton , and Waco, as well as Coryell and Bell Counties. We use our knowledge and experience to protect your rights at all times, particularly during questioning, and we are prepared to aggressively defend you in the event you are charged with a crime. Give us a call or complete our contact form today to schedule a consultation.