Should You Go in For Police Questioning?

You get a call from the Police. They’d just like you to come down to the station and answer a few questions. That’s all. You’re not in trouble, the officer says. Don’t worry. They just need to clear up a few things that they have questions about and to hear your side of the story. It could relate to a domestic argument, a traffic accident, a hit and run, a theft or any number of criminal or traffic related matters. You’d like to be cooperative because you’ve always heard that police respond better to helpful people. So, should you go? What should you say?

How Big of a Gambler Are You?

Lots of people bet on things. They go to Las Vegas or wager on the horses at the racetrack. If they lose, they’ve lost some money, although hopefully not too much. But betting on your freedom and your criminal record is another thing entirely. If you lose, you may lose big. You might go to jail or you might lose your driving privileges. So, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here are the three basic possible scenarios of why a police officer may be asking you to come down to the police station and talk:

  • Good Intentions: Is it possible that the police really just want to hear your side of the story and that they truly have not made up their mind yet as to whether you should be charged with a crime or which side to believe? And that if you explain what happened convincingly, they may agree with you and charge you with nothing, then let you go, telling you to have a nice day and that they’re sorry that they wasted your time? Yes. It has definitely happened before, and it has happened to some of our clients. But is it likely? No, it’s not likely. The much more common situations are described below.
  • Getting Arrested Anyway: Police like to have lots of evidence against those charged with crimes and traffic offenses. So, in many cases, they’ll ask you come into the station to tell your side of the story, but really, they’re already decided that they’re going to charge you with the offense. Most of time, they’ve already written up all the paperwork or tickets ahead of time. They’re just hoping that you’ll give them even more evidence against you than they already have in order to make their case even stronger. Once you’re finished talking, you’ll be charged while you’re there or they’ll recontact you and ask you to turn yourself in later.
  • Helping Make the Case: This is probably the most common scenario of all. It’s also the most dangerous. There are many situations where the police are convinced that a particular person is responsible for committing a crime or violating a traffic law. They just “know it”, but they can’t entirely prove it. Maybe they found your car wrapped around a light pole in Chicago, but you’re nowhere to be found. There’s an empty bottle of alcohol in the wrecked car and half a marijuana joint. There are no witnesses to the car crash. So, they call you up so that you can “tell your side of the story”. If you talk to them and admit that you were the driver (or worse yet, that you were drinking or smoking weed), you’re probably going to be charged with leaving the scene, open alcohol, cannabis in possession of driver and possibly even DUI or Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis. If you remain silent (as it is your fight to do) you may never be charged at all. And if you end up being charged anyway, your lawyer will later be able to offer many possible explanations at trial as long as you haven’t already “thrown yourself under the bus”. Did someone steal your car? Did Santa Claus borrow it without your permission? Who knows?

So, when faced with that phone call from the police, you’ll have to make an important decision. It’s certainly possible that going in to talk to the police may result in no charges. It’s just not very likely. And if you do choose to take that risk, it’s always a good idea to hire an attorney to communicate with the police on your behalf. That’s because when you speak, your words can be used against you in a court of law. It’s called an “admission.” But when a lawyer says the same thing on your behalf, it generally can’t be used in any way to prove the case against you.

Speak to a Lawyer Before You Speak to the Police

Since 1990, the legal team at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC has been helping clients targeted by the police reduce the chances that they will in fact be charged with or convicted of criminal and traffic offenses. Call us at (312) 644-0444 to be put in touch with an experienced attorney today.