I am often contacted by individuals seeking advice about whether they need legal advice before meeting with law enforcement. Often, these individuals do not feel that they have anything to hide from the police and that their lack of cooperation will be viewed with suspicion. Further, because employment obligations, management duties, or insurance policy coverage may require cooperation with law enforcement, failure to meet with law enforcement could create problems in these areas.
Police officers know that people harbor these fears. They also know that most people instinctively want to appease law enforcement, so they will waive their right to remain silent and that they will waive their right to have an attorney present and they will answer any questions freely and voluntarily. Police can nevertheless lie to their suspect in order to obtain a statement, they can minimize the severity of the alleged conduct, and they can hide the true purpose of their inquiry. The police do not have to interrupt questioning to advise a person of their legal rights until that person is placed under arrest. But even when law enforcement is completely honest about their intentions to obtain incriminating information from the person they seek to question, and even when they advise a person of their rights, most people will talk anyway.
Talking to the police without the advice of legal counsel is often a costly mistake. Criminal defense attorneys play a key role in any interrogation involving a potential criminal matter. My colleague has a largemouth bass on a plaque in his office. The caption below the fish reads, “If I had only kept my mouth shut.”