Tips For Interacting With Police Officers

  1. When in doubt, be silent. Proverbs tells us that “even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise.” We would all be well served by heeding these words. You probably have heard of “Miranda Warnings.” Follow them, even if you know you are innocent of any wrongdoing. Anything you say to a police officer WILL be used against you. You never have to talk to the police. When in doubt, keep silent.
  2. Always be respectful, regardless of whatever injustice you perceive. You will only make things worse by arguing with the police. It is highly unlikely that you will convince them that they are wrong and you are right.
  3. Unless and until you are actually under arrest, you are never obligated to give them permission to search you, and even upon arrest, the police usually still need either your consent (i.e., permission) or a warrant to search your home or your vehicle. If an officer claims otherwise, you should never physically attempt to stop him or her, but neither are you ever required to say, “I consent.” (Remember, if they are asking for consent, it means you have the right to say “no.” If they do not need consent, you can rest assured that they will not bother asking.)
    1. For example, if you are pulled over in your vehicle, and the officer asks to look in your trunk (whether you have something to hide or not) you have the right to say “no” (remember to do so respectfully). If the officer’s response is that he or she can make you wait until they obtain a search warrant, then you have the right to reply, “OK, go ahead and get the warrant. I’ll wait here in my car.” Maybe they will get the warrant, but only if they have a specific reason and evidence to do so. Otherwise you may wind up calling their bluff.
  4. If, at any time, a police officer asks to talk to you about something, ask lots of questions to get information from the police officer, and then politely reply, “I am going to touch base with my attorney first and then get back to you.” Then call an attorney to determine whether to speak with the officer or not.
    1. The officer’s request to talk may, on the one hand, simply be an innocent inquiry. However, it may instead be a fishing expedition as part of a criminal investigation. The point is that you do not know. The police have the important and legitimate function of investigating crimes, and so if you are questioned by a police officer, even in a casual way, you cannot rule out the possibility that they suspect you of criminality, even if they tell you, “You are not a suspect.” An attorney can help advise you as to when it is okay to talk to the police, when, for example, it turns out they legitimately need your help in an investigation. However, if there is a significant risk that doing so may hurt you legally, an attorney can also recognize the risks and advise you to remain silent.
  5. Never try to explain your way out of an accusation, or an inference that you have done something illegal. If and when that occurs, stop talking and immediately say, “I am done talking and want to speak with my attorney.” The police are no longer permitted to question you after that point, and if you continue to talk, you will likely only say something you will either regret or did not mean.

The criminal defense lawyers at Trinity Law have advised Pennsylvania residents on the type of matters described above for more than 30 years. If you have any questions or need a criminal defense lawyer for any reason, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys today.