Growing up, children are taught that police officers are their friends. If a child needs assistance, he or she should feel comfortable asking a police officer for help. In cases involving young children, this suggestion is typically good advice. However, as children become young adults, the nature of police interaction becomes more dangerous. Unless reporting a crime committed against them, adults will typically learn that talking with the police will not be beneficial, and lawyers usually recommend against it. This is not to say that all police officers are inherently bad; there are certainly good police officers who are conscious that it is their job to serve and protect. However, when a person is being investigated for a crime, talking to a police officer will almost never help.
Whenever the police show up at someone’s home, it is not to deliver good news. Police officers rarely, if ever, go to someone’s home just to say hello and see how their day is going. Usually, if the police appear at someone’s house or call on the phone, it is because they suspect that person has committed a crime. Even when an officer walks up to a person on the street, it is usually not to have a pleasant conversation. Instead, the police are trying to have what is called a “consensual encounter” to try to get more information and, they hope, give them probable cause to make an arrest. At this point, a person does not have to talk to the police; it is within the person’s rights to politely decline the encounter and walk away.
However, if the police have moved beyond a consensual encounter and are now detaining that person, it is because the officers believe that have enough evidence to make an arrest. At this point, no communication with the officers will help; instead, it will only create more evidence against the detainee. It is very rare that a detained person will be able to talk his way out of an arrest. At the point of detention, officers are typically convinced that person has committed a crime and they will not believe a denial. Even the most eloquent and clever conversationalist can fall into this trap and inadvertently give police officers more “ammo” for whatever charges they plan on arresting the suspect for. As is often seen on TV, Miranda warnings include for a reason that “anything you say can and will be used against you.”
In the United States, people are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Every case is different, but in the criminal justice world, the same rules should equally apply to the innocent and guilty. If you are being investigated for a crime, you should contact a Florida criminal defense attorney regarding your specific case. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.
Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.