This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Do Not Talk To Cops

Francisco Goya, "Scene from an Inquisition" (c. 1800)Via. I have a public service announcement:

Do not talk to cops.

Do not talk to cops.

Do not talk to cops.

Nothing good comes of talking to cops.

As with everything in life, there are some exceptions. Like, if you are reporting a crime in progress or a suspicious package, or you need the cops’ help, or you are being questioned as part of a routine canvass. Even then, THE SECOND you feel something isn’t right, for the love of God, shut the fuck up and refuse to say anything further. The US Constitution gives you the right to shut the fuck up, however rude doing so might be. True, invoking it will not exactly endear you to the cops, but please, don’t piss away your rights just to be polite.

Do not talk to cops.

People say you should “refuse to answer any more questions”, but — putting on my lawyer hat here — that’s way underinclusive. Refusing to answer questions isn’t quite the same as refusing to talk, and by running your mouth, you waive your right to shut the fuck up. Not only should you not answer questions — you shouldn’t say ANYTHING, no matter how tempted and no matter how good you think it will feel to tell off the cops. Smart-alecky and (especially) sarcastic comments can be construed as incriminating. Hostile comments may get you arrested (at the very least) for “resisting arrest” or threatening a cop, beaten or even killed. Just be silent. Bite on something if you have to.

Do not talk to cops, except to give routine info such as your name and address and to the extent necessary to convey to them that you are not going to talk. The only things you should say are limited to these three scenarios:

SCENARIO ONE

YOU: Am I under arrest?
COP: Yes.
YOU: I am not saying another word. I want a lawyer.

To anything else the cop may say after this, to every objection he makes, to every threat he issues (e.g., “you know, we can hold you as a material witness”) the only response out of your mouth should be “I want a lawyer”. Do not argue. Do not haggle. Do not explain the law. Do not explain anything. Demand a lawyer.

SCENARIO TWO

YOU: Am I under arrest?
COP: No.
YOU: I am leaving.

Get up and leave without saying anything else, no matter what the cop says to you after this. If he physically prevents you from leaving, do not resist, but say the following words, and ONLY the following words:

I am not saying another word. I want a lawyer.

Being “not under arrest” means being free to leave. If you are prevented from leaving, you are in custody, even if no magic words were uttered. Do not say anything and demand to speak to a lawyer. You have the right to counsel if you are in custody, even if you haven’t been “formally” placed under arrest.

SCENARIO THREE

YOU: Am I under arrest?
COP: You tell me.

That means “no”. So tell him “no” and leave. See Scenario Two.

Do not talk to cops.

Do not believe anything a cop says to you. Cops are allowed by law to lie to you. They may withhold information, as well.

They may, for example, lie to you about law, about procedure, about how courts work. The only person you can trust to give you accurate information about law is your lawyer. YOUR lawyer. And incidentally, know that when cops say that you are hurting yourself by “lawyering up” or blowing an opportunity for a favorable deal by invoking your right to counsel, that is a blatant lie: whatever trouble you are in, you will always, ALWAYS do better with a lawyer than without.

Do not believe a cop if he says that you are making things “worse” for yourself by refusing to “cooperate”. It is your Constitutional right not to “cooperate” in an investigation against you — which means you can’t be penalized for exercising that right. And you don’t gain anything by “cooperating”; quite the contrary, “cooperating” is how you hang yourself.

Cops are allowed to lie about facts too. They may mess with your head by telling you someone has implicated you in some wrongdoing, that they found incriminating evidence against you, whatever. Stay strong. Assume everything out of the cop’s mouth is a lie. Shut up and demand a lawyer.

Do not volunteer to take a lie detector test. Do not agree to one, either. If you are being detained by the cops, nothing good will come of being helpful.

But seriously, do not talk to cops.

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5 thoughts on “Do Not Talk To Cops

  1. An acquaintance once shared a lecture by a former cop who specialized in interrogation and was working towards his law degree. In long form, he stated nearly verbatim what you have said here.

  2. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez on said:

    I really wonder, though, if blacks do this, will they be safe? As a white person I could perceive doing this. But if my Hispanic husband or one of my black friends does this, can you guarantee this will not upset a police officer further, enough to endanger their lives? This is scary for me to even think about. What a crazy world we live in.

  3. Even with whites, I’ve heard accounts of being tasered because the cops decided the person they’d stopped was disrespectful or acting suspicious. I think with blacks it’s even higher risk–as witness that recent case where a cop told a black driver to get out of his car, panicked and shot him for getting out of the car.
    Our host is absolutely right on the law, but I know former cops who say the only way to be safe is do whatever you’re told (although as the case I mentioned shows even that doesn’t always work.

  4. Oh, this is good. In a week or so I’m going to see my uncle who is a cop. Does this mean I don’t have to talk to him? It’s not that I don’t like him, per se, but if I could avoid the annual “whatcha been up to” conversation, I would love that. Do you recommend just stonewalling him over mashed potatoes? I’m into this.
    (In all seriousness, I get what you’re saying. If you’re detained, no good can come of running your trap.)

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