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Should I Talk or Should I Speak to an Attorney First?

Generally, people who are being investigated for a crime feel that if they speak to the police and explain their side of the story, the police will believe them and they will not be arrested. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we often tell clients, one part of your brain wants to explain your side of the story to the police in the hope that they will understand your explanation and go away. This is rarely the case.

There is no question that speaking to the police is a dangerous thing to do. You have a constitutional right not to speak to the police other than giving them identifying information (ex: your full name and your date of birth). It is important to understand that law enforcement personnel—whether a patrol officer or a detective—are trained professional investigators. Their job is to extract as much information from you as possible before you realize that you should probably be talking to a criminal defense lawyer who will inevitably instruct you not to talk to the police.

Two Primary Reasons Why the Police Want to Talk to You

  1. First, they do not have enough information to bring charges against you and are trying to get you to provide the information. That is the last thing we want you to do. Our firm has handled many cases which would not have been brought against our clients if they had remained silent.
  1. Second, if you do not fit into the first category, the police will generally want to speak with you because they already have enough information to bring charges against you or to arrest you but they are trying to get as much information as they can from you before you speak with a criminal lawyer. They know that as soon as you speak to an attorney, he/she will almost always tell you not to speak to the police until the lawyer has a chance to consult with you. The police also know that when they read you your Miranda Rights—which explains that you have a right to speak to a lawyer before answering any questions—many clients will stop providing information.

Protecting Your Constitutional Rights

Police officers may try to avoid reading your Miranda Rights because they are afraid that you will not speak with them once you know your legal rights. They may even "guarantee" that they will not arrest you. Be careful! This is simply an attempt by the police to avoid reading you your Miranda Rights and yet, still be able to use any incriminating statements that you may make against you in court.

Again, the best move for a person who is being investigated for a crime is to speak to a criminal attorney! There are situations in which a lawyer may give you permission to speak to a police officer but that permission is always given after a consultation. In many cases, there are things the defense attorney can do to arrange for a client to speak to the police without further harm to the client, such as negotiating immunity with the District Attorney, preventing charges from being brought when the client speaks with the police, etc.

If you are being investigated by police, do not hesitate contact our firm right away. We proudly serve Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Lake, Mendocino, and Humboldt Counties.

Ronald Dinan & Associates, Attorneys & Lawyers, Santa Rosa, CA