The short answer is yes, but not always.
Law enforcement officers are charged with keeping the peace, enforcing the law, and protecting the public from would-be bad guys. We teach our kids to always tell the truth when confronted with questions from an officer and to look for their advice and help when we are in trouble.
However, the truth of the matter is you may find yourself in a situation where speaking to the cops is not in your best legal interest. If you are over the age of 12 and did not initiate contact with an officer, the officer asking your questions may be looking for evidence that you committed a crime, even if they make it sound like they are trying to help you.
When should you avoid speaking with the cops?
Whether or not you have committed a crime, there are certain times when talking will only hurt you. In the case of a DUI stop, the officer is actively investigating and trying to find evidence against you — not for you. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Participation in the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests is designed to show signs of impairment, regardless of how good your balance is or how sober you think you are.
These tests — the horizontal gaze Nystagmus test, the walk and turn test, and one leg stand test — are also voluntary and you can refuse to do them (although officers don’t tell you that). They simply instruct you to perform them and then will use them against you, saying they saw signs of impairment during the tests. Also, admitting to the cop that you have been drinking anything will most certainly be used against you if you are charged with a crime.
Get a trusted lawyer by your side
In most situations where an officer is asking you questions regarding a crime or accident, it is beneficial to have a lawyer by your side to make sure that your interests are protected. In these cases, your response to officers should typically be that you’d like to speak to your attorney before answering any questions. This can be true even if you didn’t do anything wrong or illegal.
If a law enforcement officer asks you to come to the station to talk, they probably already have enough information to arrest you. They are fishing for a confession or information to solidify their case. Your best course of action is to tell them that you will contact them back at a later time, hang up, and call your attorney, who can advise you on how to proceed.
If you do wish to speak with the officers and it is in your best interest, your lawyer can accompany you and make sure that the officers are not violating your rights or making you promises they don’t have the authority to make.
Additionally, your attorney can evaluate your case and your liability before deciding to speak to an officer. If you want to try to negotiate a deal, the time to do it is after you have secured representation and understand what your “cooperation” is really going to do for you.
The right to remain silent
Finally, cops can tell you things that are not true, like that they know things they really don’t. They can tell you that they will help you, when in reality, they want to make sure you go to jail. If you find yourself sitting in an interview room with a detective, or in the backseat of a police car in handcuffs, don’t waive your right to silence. You will not outsmart an officer when you are in their environment, so don’t try to. Ask to speak to an attorney, refuse to answer any questions until they are present, and call them as soon as you can.
We are here for you
If you are in a situation where you need a trustworthy criminal defense attorney by your side, Judnich Law Office has your back. Call us at (406) 203-0913 in Missoula or (406) 602-8700 in Bozeman. You can also contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Marty is a former criminal prosecutor in the Cascade County Attorney’s Office and now uses that experience to defend those accused of crimes. A University of Montana School of Law graduate, Marty focuses his practice on personal injury and criminal defense and is a premier DUI defense attorney. He is also well versed in the insurance claims industry and has negotiated significant settlements with nearly every major insurance company.