How to Handle the Police

Government workers and police officers are an integral part of keeping our streets safe. They protect citizens and ensure that people follow the rules set in place for the community’s safety. You shouldn’t be afraid to be questioned by the police if you are innocent and know your legal rights. However, if you know that you could potentially be in trouble you should be cautious when dealing with the police. Officers have training that has taught them how to interrogate citizens and use the law to their advantage. Innocent people have been arrested because they didn’t know how to handle a police interview.

What Should You Do if You are Questioned by Police?

Be proactive in learning how to deal with the police. If you think you are being accused by an officer or that you could potentially be in trouble, then you need to know how to defend yourself. Here are 8 important things to keep in mind when you are being interviewed by a police officer.

1: Understand Your Situation

There are three different types of police questioning. Legally, the different types of questioning give you different rights as well as different obligations. It’s important to know what situation you are in order to act accordingly.

  • Voluntary Encounters: This type of police encounter is voluntary, and the suspect is free to leave. The person being questioned cannot be searched and is free to end the encounter at any time
  • Investigative Detention: This is a brief encounter, typically 20-30 minutes. The person being questioned can be frisked and is not free to leave.
  • Arrests: The suspect can be brought to jail, searched, and forced to show photo identification.

Investigative Detentions and Arrests require the officer to have a certain level of evidence against the person being detained. However, an officer can hold a suspect on “reasonable suspicion”, and what might seem unreasonable to you is actually considered reasonable in the eyes of the law. Courts tend to take the officers side when “reasonable suspicion” is questioned and even typical behavior can be considered reasonable suspicion.

An officer must have “probable cause” if they are going to search your car, search you, or arrest you. This is a higher standard than “reasonable suspicion”, however, it’s still easier for an officer to come up with probable cause then you would think. It can be confusing trying to understand how much evidence there is against you, so if you are unsure of why you are being questioned by the police then you can always ask.

2: Ask if You Can Leave

There are many arrests based on intimidation and tricks by the police that could have otherwise been avoided. Police are not obligated to always tell you the truth. Police officers often bluff about what they’ve seen in the hopes that you will allow a search or confess and incriminate yourself. The one thing a police officer is required to answer honestly about is whether or not you are free to leave.

Officers are required to let you leave a voluntary encounter unless they have either reasonable suspicion or probable cause. If there is insufficient evidence to meet the standards of probable cause or reasonable suspicion, then any evidence that is found against you will be exempt in court for being unconstitutional. If an officer tells you that you are free to leave, then it might be a good idea to end the voluntary encounter.

3: Am I Under Arrest?

If the officer says that you are not free to leave, then your next question should be to ask if you are under arrest. Keep in mind that if you’re under arrest you have fewer rights than if you are under an investigative detention. An arrest is the worst scenario to be in. If the officer has enough evidence to warrant an arrest, then they probably have enough evidence to justify a search warrant which means if you are hiding something then it will likely be found.

4: Never Give Consent

Your consent (or lack of) is a valuable thing during a police interrogation. Never consent to anything, consenting gives the police officer more rights. If you allow a police officer into your home, you are basically giving that officer the same rights as you give your great aunt when you invite her over for dinner. Once you give the police a small amount of rope they pull until that small amount becomes a mile.

If you do give consent you are giving the officer the chance to see something that could give them reasonable suspicion or even probable cause. You never have to consent, despite anything the officer says. In order to avoid an unwarranted arrest, never consent to anything involving the police.

5: Don’t Say Too Much

Less is more when it comes to talking to the police. “Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law”, therefore it’s best not to talk too much and accidentally incriminate yourself.

Police are trained to manipulate partial confessions in order to bring up the level of evidence against you. If an officer is questioning you and you’d like to respond, keep your answers short. You aren’t required to say anything at all. If you feel like the officer is leading you or trying to dig up evidence on you, simply remain silent. Don’t talk yourself into a situation you can’t get out of.

6: Confidence is Key

Officers use their knowledge of the law against suspects. They use tricks and intimidation to try and lead you into incriminating yourself. Be confident and don’t allow an officer to confuse or intimidate you. After reading this post you should know your rights and understand how to avoid letting the police manipulate you. Keep in mind that you never have to consent to a search or tell the police officers anything.

7: Know Questioning Tactics

Police officers receive training on how to effectively question citizens. This training is shared between departments, so it is very likely that you will run into the same interrogation techniques. The techniques are crafty, so it is worthwhile to take the time to understand and recognize the most common police interrogation methods.

  • Police officers will bluff about the information they have. They can claim they have evidence against you, such as a witness. Don’t fall for this tactic, especially if you know you are innocent.
  • Police officers will attempt to get your consent for a search or ask you to give them information. Helping the police officers with their investigation by consenting will ultimately only hurt your case. By consenting to a search, you can only increase the amount of evidence that the police have against you.
  • Police officers will try to trick you into consenting to a search by offering you favoritism or implying leniency. They’ll say things along the lines of “we’re on the same side here,” or “if you can help me then I can help you,”. A police officer cannot legally promise any leniency, so do not fall for this trick. If you pay close attention to what the officers are saying you will notice that they never explicitly promise anything. Citizens are scared and tend to believe the officers promise of vague leniency in the hopes that they will not get in as much trouble. In this situation, the best thing to do is either stay silent or ask the officer if you are allowed to leave.
  • Police officers will try to put you under the impression that you are incriminating yourself by not answering questions. Remaining silent is your legal right and is not incriminating. Officers will tell you that it looks suspicious for you to not answer questions and ask you what you’re hiding. You can tell the officer, respectfully, that you are exercising a protected right.
  • Police officers will word questions in a specific way to try and get you to accidentally consent. They’ll say things like “you don’t mind if I look around?” Or “No worries, mind if I check the place out?”. These types of questions are tricky because their casual nature makes it so people don’t even realize that they’ve given voluntary consent until the officer has found incriminating evidence against them. You can revoke your consent or remind the officer that you have not given consent, but you can’t take back your consent after the officer has found something incriminating.

8: Get a Lawyer

Dealing with the police is complicated and can be very confusing. The stakes are high in a police investigation so the smartest thing to do is lawyer up. A lawyer can investigate your case and help you navigate the legal system.