After a rousing night out with his friends, Joey had gone home and slept until noon. He was awakened by a loud rapping on his door. There stood a police officer. Had he been at the Juke Joint the night before, was he there after midnight, what had he been wearing?
Joey was exhausted and confused. He couldn’t understand why law enforcement was standing on his front doorstep, and he wondered whether he had to answer his questions.
Your rights in the U.S.
We’ve all heard it on television and in the movies: You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you. The simple fact is that the Unites States Constitution guarantees us the right never to testify against ourselves. But what does this really mean?
You are never, under any circumstances, obligated to talk with law enforcement. You are required to give an officer your actual name (giving a false name is illegal), but beyond that, you can and should politely inform him that you will not speak with him by stating, “I will not talk with you and I want my attorney.”
Once you have invoked that right, law enforcement must cease all questioning. If an officer continues to question you after you have informed him the conversation is over, contact an attorney immediately.
What if I don’t have an attorney?
At that moment, it really matters little whether you have an attorney, or not. Be adamant and invoke your rights. If you are charged with a crime, you will either hire one or have one appointed to you. At that point, the attorney acts as your conduit among the cops and the courts.
Law enforcement counts on you being uninformed about your rights. During an investigation, they can, and frequently do, encourage you to violate your rights by speaking to them, and they are extremely skilled at provoking you to respond. Don’t fall for it.
Be smart and keep yourself safe.
If an officer has enough information to charge you with a crime, he certainly doesn’t need your statement to corroborate it; if he has little valuable information with which to charge you, you could inadvertently bolster his investigation simply by admitting you were in a certain place at a certain time.
Know your rights. Memorize the sentence: “I will not talk with you and I want my attorney.” Those eleven words can save your future, and your life.