Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Don't Talk to the Cops

By Robert W. Zeuner, Member of the New York State Bar

       "GOOD MORNING! My name is investigator Holmes. Do you mind answering a few
simple questions?" If you open your door one day and are greeted with those 
words, STOP AND THINK! Whether it is the local police or the FBI at your door,
you have certain legal rights of which you ought to be aware before you
proceed any further.
        In the first place, when law enforcement authorities come to see you,
there are no "simple questions". Unless they are investigating a traffic 
accident, you can be sure that they want information about somebody. And that
somebody may be you!
        Rule number one to remember when confronted by the authorities is that
there is no law requiring you to talk with the police, the FBI, or the
representative of any other investigative agency. Even the simplest questions
may be loaded and the seemingly harmless bits of information which you 
volunteer may later become vital links in a chain of circumstantial evidence
against you or a friend.
        Such an invitation not only gives him the opportunity to look around
for clues to your lifestyle, friends, reading material, etc., but also tends
to prolong the conversation. The longer the conversation, the more chance
there is for a skill investigator to find out what he wants to know.
        Many times a police officer will ask you to accompany him to the 
police station to answer a few questions. In that case, simply thank him for
the invitation and indicate that you are not disposed to accept it at this 
time. Often the authorities simply want to photograph a person for 
identification purposes, a procedure which is easily accomplished by placing
him in a private room with a two-way mirror at the station, asking him a few
innocent questions, and then releasing him.
        If the investigator becomes angry at your failure to cooperate and
threatens you with arrest, stand firm. He cannot legally place you under 
arrest or enter your home without a warrent signed by a judge. If he indicates
that he has such a warrent, ask to see it. A person under arrest, or located
on premises to be searched, generally must be shown a warrent if he requests
it and must be given to chance to read it.
        Without a warrent, an officer depends solely upon your helpfulness to 
obtain the information he wants. So, unless you are quite sure of yourself, 
don't be helpful.
        Probably the wisest approach to take to a persistant investigator is
simply to say: "I'm quite busy now. If you have any questions that you feel I
can answer, I'd be happy to listen to them in my lawyer's office. Goodbye!"
        Talk is cheap. When that talk involves the law enforcement
authorities, it may cost you, or someone close to you, dearly.

                This info came from a leaflet that was printed as a public
                service by individuals concerned with the growing role of
                authoritarianism and police power in our society. Please
                feel free to copy or republish.

        This info also applies to dealing with private investigators, and
        corporate security agents.


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