I follow the law for the most part and I don't suspect that the police are out to get me. Yet, every once in a while, I hear people talk about something relating to how the police treated them, and the answer is, for the most part, consult your lawyer. This advice is commonly given when the police stop you and want you to give testimony (No, I'll have my lawyer submit my testimony) or if the police want to do anything strange (No, you cannot use my backyard as a stakeout. You can talk to my lawyer)

I assume part of the reason that this advice is given so frequently is that the people giving the advice are lawyers and they feel that they are more important than they are and because they have a financial stake in getting people to talk to lawyers often.

So my basic questions are:

  • Should I find a lawyer to have on call?
  • Should I really consult a lawyer before voluntarily talking to the police?
  • No one is going to answer "Should I find a lawyer to have on call?" They will answer "Should I consult a lawyer before voluntarily talking to the police?" Mar 31 '19 at 16:17
  • For your second question watch this: youtube.com/watch?v=d-7o9xYp7eE
    – A. K.
    Mar 31 '19 at 19:14
  • Are you asking about US law?
    – phoog
    Apr 1 '19 at 14:17
  • Under U.S. Jurisdiction, the "Backyard as a Stakeout" is illegal under the Third Amendment (Right against quartering troops aka the government forcing agents onto your private property.). Savor this moment as it's a very rarely disputed part of the U.S. Constitution (in fact, so rare, that no case on a question about the Third Amendment has ever been decided by the Supreme Court, the only Amendment in the Bill of Rights to have such a record).
    – hszmv
    Apr 1 '19 at 15:24

It would not be a bad idea to think about what you would do if for example the police arrest you for some crime (it doesn't matter whether you did it), or if you are interrogated by government attorneys or police. If you are arrested, you will be given the opportunity to call an attorney. You do not give testimony when police ask you questions, you give testimony in court. This is a widely-known video explaining why you should never talk to the police, and you should watch that video (he recently wrote a book on the topic, You Have the Right to Remain Innocent). Then go into any interactions with the police apprised of the risks.

Suppose you witness a robbery and the perps escape in a car: the police ask if you saw them, and where they went. You should not lie, because that is a crime. It would be good to help the police in this situation: is there any risk to you? Do they think maybe that you are involved in the crime? I think the relevant distinction is between being asked information questions, and being interrogated. If you are being interrogated, lawyer up. Even if you are free to go, they may still be interrogating you, and you may not know that when you are not being detained, you have to explicitly invoke your right to silence if they casually imply that you've committed a crime (this is the adoptive admissions thing, not widely known by non-law people).

The reason why many people advocate lawyering up is that the risks arising from not getting competent advice are high. I think that video is a useful corrective to the thinking "I didn't do anything wrong, I have nothing to hide". It's not just drumming up business.

  • What happens if someone refuses to answer questions without explicitly invoking the right to silence? Also, this answer seems to apply to the US. is there something in the question that leads you to the conclusion that it concerns US law? As far as I can tell, it could be asking about New Zealand.
    – phoog
    Apr 1 '19 at 14:17
  • OP has a statistical preference for US jurisdiction. If you don't deny an implied accusation, that can be introduced as evidence against you. But if you invoke the right to silence, you are protected.
    – user6726
    Apr 1 '19 at 14:48
  • Thanks for the response on the question of invoking the right to silence. How can OP have a statistical preference for US jurisdiction if it is the first post by an unregistered anonymous user?
    – phoog
    Apr 1 '19 at 15:08
  • @user6726: Actually, not speaking to deny an accusation can only hurt you never help. They do mean it when they say "Anything you say can and will be used AGAINST you" in Miranda. The cop, by rules of trial, cannot testify to your denials as that would not be against you (and hearsay, which isn't permitted). Either say nothing or answer with "Lawyer", so they know you're not in a chatty mood. In the matter of U.S. vs. New Zealand law, both are Common Law nations, so the rules tend to be similar enough.
    – hszmv
    Apr 1 '19 at 15:20
  • Oops on who the OP is. The adoptive admissions problems is that the cop can testify as to your silence under (FRE 801(2)B), see the notes law.cornell.edu/rules/fre/rule_801) and this article on Salinas v. Texas columbialawreview.org/content/…
    – user6726
    Apr 1 '19 at 15:33

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