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What should you say to the police?

Now that I’m a defense attorney, I get to tell people what I thought all along when I was a prosecutor: don’t talk to the police. Just. Don’t. Talk.

If you’re pulled over, minimize the interaction. Ask if you’re free to leave. If you are free to go, then leave.

Well, it turns out that cops give that exact same advice.

Check out this question on Quora, called “What are some things cops know that most people don’t?” This cop’s advice is golden:

[U]nless you broke the law, you probably have the right to just walk away (and you probably should). I teach my kids and their friends that if a cop walks up to them and starts asking them questions, the only thing that should be coming out of their mouth is, “Am I detained or am I free to go?” If they’re free to go they’re to walk away and, when out of earshot, call me immediately. If they’re detained they’re only allowed to identify themselves and demand to talk to me.

The cop discusses a traffic stop:

When an officer says “you’re free to go” during a traffic stop, you no longer have to listen to him or cooperate with him in any way. If an officer says, “You’re free to go, but do you mind if I ask: ‘Is there anything in your vehicle that shouldn’t be there?’, one good way to respond is, “Have a nice day officer,” and drive away.

I agree 100 percent. You should do that. My guess is that part of the reason this officer feels comfortable giving this advice online is that he is a nice guy. The other part of the reason is that he knows that almost no one will take his advice.

Anyone who has listened to their Jay-Z or watched the Sopranos already knows that you should keep your mouth shut and get a lawyer. Literally, everyone has heard this advice. Yet almost every traffic stop police report contains the sentence “After I issued the ticket, the driver agreed to let me search the vehicle for contraband and I found…”

So. Just. Don’t. Talk. (Or give them permission to search your vehicle.)

Disclaimer: This is a blog post on the Internet, not legal advice. I am not your attorney. Consult an attorney if you have been charged with a crime.


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