Encountering police officers can be an intense situation for regular people within the community, especially if the officer is questioning you about a crime.First off and most importantly, I cannot emphasize enough that police officers work for the government, not you. Yes, police officers don't have any ill-will upon you (assuming they do not know you) but if they can get enough evidence that you committed a crime, they are going to arrest you.
In some situations, officers "think" they have enough evidence to arrest a person and then they go ahead and arrest that person. Officers sometimes make the quick arrest without confirming certain details of a person's statement or confirming certain events actually happened. In other situations the officer simply asks a person questions, even after knowing they have enough evidence to arrest a person, so that they can get the person's story to conflict with other witnesses stories about how things happened. In my experience, when jurors hear inconsistent stories, they almost always assume someone is lying. When the inconsistency comes from the defendant, jurors tend to discredit the defendant before the other 2-3 witnesses' stories. Of course, there are a few other factors that are taken into consideration before the jurors completely discredit the defendant's testimony but that will be for another blog.
Generally speaking, officers try to speak to witnesses first before going to their "main target" to question him or her about a crime. This is because they want to have stories ahead of time for their "main target" to conflict. If the officer gets 2-3 stories before speaking with the "main target" and the "main target" conflicts the other witnesses' stories, they assume the "main target" is guilty. A jury tends to usually go along with this rationale as long as there is no evidence that the witnesses really do not like the "main target" or other important evidence to absolve the "main target" from guilt. And believe me, there are cases that get brought because witnesses gang up on a person to get them back. In other cases and more frequently, the witnesses make about ten assumptions and draw a conclusion that it was a certain person who committed a certain crime and then those witnesses gather and speak about the "facts" so that their stories jive. So, set forth below are some tips on how you should respond to your encounters with police if it appears that the police are trying implicate you in a crime:
1. Be very respectful to the police officer. Remember everything is being recorded on the officer's bodycam. A jury gets to see the bodycam.
2. If your driveway is full of cars and an officer knocks on your door, answer the door. As you can imagine, it comes off as very suspicious if you do not answer your door.
3. The officer will generally ask you a few "small talk" questions and will pretend like they want to be your friend. Remember, they are investigating a crime. You should respond with short and kind remarks to them. Officers tend to turn and twist every word and action you make into something it is not if they believe it is you that committed a crime. Keep your responses short.
4. When the officer begins questioning you about where you were on a certain date and time or asks you if you know anything about what happened to so and so. . .This is when you tell the officer that you would like to speak to an attorney. Generally speaking, talking to an attorney is the best thing you can do at this point in the encounter because the officer does not have any statement from you. Remember once you make a statement to the police officer, you are stuck with that statement even if you said something you did not mean to say. Trying to explain yourself to a jury why you had a slip in words does not usually go too well. Although I should note in regard to calling an attorney, I have seen it where the defendant has contacted defense counsel and has actually been advised by defense counsel to do the wrong thing. So to solve this problem, you should contact two defense attorneys. Simply put, talk to an attorney before making a statement to police. Be adamant about this because the officer will attempt to get you to speak without an attorney.
5. If the officer says he or she is going to arrest you, go along with it. It is beyond rare that after an officer has made a decision to arrest that he or she later decides to change his or her mind. It is highly unlikely that anything you say will get you out of the arrest. Once arrested, keep your mouth shut and invoke your right to remain silent (a.k.a. Miranda Rights).
In conclusion, keep your conversation short and sweet, answer your door if your driveway is filled with cars, be respectful, ask to speak to an attorney if you are implicated in a crime, and if arrested keep your mouth shut. If you follow the above rules, you will give yourself the best shot at fighting your charge.
If you are confronted by police and implicated in a crime or have any questions about criminal law, do not hesitate to contact the Feld Law Firm. A defense attorney would be more than willing to answer any questions you may have and point you in the right direction. The Feld Law Firm is located at 1200 Valley West Drive, Ste. 208 in West Des Moines, Iowa.