Let's say you were arrested and detained for a crime that you didn't commit. The police/detective starts questioning you but before they get anywhere, that old saying of,

I want to speak with my lawyer

pops into your head.

If you've not committed a crime, why wait for a lawyer before answering things like where you were, who you were with, etc? Doesn't that just make you more suspicious?

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    In your scenario are you at all emotional, tired, hungry, on tilt due to the detainment, or anything other than consistent reproducible-statement robot? If yes, your rational decision is to exercise your rights for a dispassionate process-control advocate. – user662852 Jun 22 '16 at 21:44
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    Without talking to a lawyer, how do you know you haven't committed a crime? – DJohnM Jun 22 '16 at 21:58
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    Watch this video, to understand why: youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc – user6726 Jun 22 '16 at 22:00
  • This is too opinion based. – user3851 Jun 22 '16 at 22:45
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    @Zizouz212 did you watch that video? You don't need to get the police to talk to your lawyer, but you also don't need to answer when they ask "do you know why I pulled you over?" – phoog Jun 23 '16 at 6:37

Invoking your right to counsel may help you avoid making any legally problematic statements to police. You say "if you've not committed a crime"; but what could that mean?

  • you aren't aware of having done anything illegal; but there are lots of laws and ignorance of the law is no excuse (a lawyer can provide a second, possibly better informed opinion on whether what you did is illegal)

  • you know you did nothing wrong, and you're right - but maybe it looks like you might have done it. Maybe, with just a couple more facts, it looks enough like that to convince exactly 12 specific U.S. citizens that you did it. Maybe those 12 people end up as your jurors. You can be innocent and look guilty enough to convict. Cops are people and jurors are people. They can mean well and get it wrong. and maybe they don't even mean well. In any case your first job is to take care of number one. A lawyer's job is to help you do that.

If you are confident enough in your knowledge of the law and your awareness of what's going on in your environment and you have really done nothing wrong, there's no harm in talking. Even if you're not so confident, it's probably usually safe if you didn't just knowingly break the law. It's a decision you have to make based on your risk tolerance.

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    Do you really mean that believing that you understand all of the law protects you from making errors based on not actually knowing the details of the law? – user6726 Jun 22 '16 at 23:55
  • It depends on the offence. If you have an honest conversation, then they'll be more likely to be easy, and outgoing with you. If you show that you can cooperate, they likely won't give you a hard time. For some offences like murder, it may be wise to get counsel, but otherwise, it is necessary? This answer provides insight into why you might get counsel, but it seems to suggest that you should always get counsel. The reasons that are against getting it, seem to be supporting the acquisition of counsel. – Zizouz212 Jun 23 '16 at 0:17
  • @user6726 My first bullet point suggests the opposite. Of course, it is hypothetically possible that you know the law well enough and the circumstances well enough to know for sure that you did nothing wrong and cannot be convicted. It may not be a situation that really applies to many people but it is a possibility. – Patrick87 Jun 23 '16 at 12:30
  • Right, and that's why I thought your words didn't match your intent. – user6726 Jun 23 '16 at 14:55
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    I disagree with your final paragraph. I have spoken with attorneys who stated that they would absolutely never waive their rights to remain silent or to counsel. Regardless of how well they may know the law, there are still some significant legal differences between a statement uttered by the person under suspicion vs. the exactly identical statement when uttered by a third party representing that person. "The lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client." – Dan Henderson Jul 18 '16 at 14:43

If the machinery of state is turned upon anyone without the resources to make an effective defense, that person can be convicted, innocent or not. Ask Scooter Libby about that.

You may be in a jurisdiction whether the prosecutor is unbalanced and will turn the state on you; innocent or not. Ask the Duke Lacrosse team about that.

If you are arrested, you are already suspicious.

The safe thing is to just get a lawyer.


Because the police don't care that you are innocent - they have a crime they want to "solve". Solve meaning put someone in front of a court and get them convicted - if they happen to be the actual perpetrator of the actual crime that is a happy coincidence but hardly a requirement.

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