Why You Should Never Talk to the Police

By: Lawrence Gridin · April 16, 2009 · Filed Under Civil Rights, Criminal Law · 40 Comments 

Moin A. Yahya, Associate Professor of Law at U. Alberta has posted a couple of interesting videos on why criminal suspects should never talk to the police.

Most experienced defence lawyers will tell you that the first words out of their mouth when they get the 3AM phone call from the jail are: “don’t say anything!”

But for some reason, criminally accused often don’t seem to get it.

The videos feature a professor of law (formerly a defence lawyer) as well as a police officer explaining why suspects would do well to heed the advice and exercise their right to remain silent.

Though the videos are reflective of American law, the principles are largely applicable here in Canada. Though we do not have a 5th Amendment, Canadians have long had a right to silence which is now constitutionally entrenched in s. 7 of the Charter (see R. v. Singh, 2007 SCC 48 for a discussion).

And now, without further ado, here is why you ought not to speak to the police:

If you have limited time, I’d suggest skipping forward to 8:20, where the professor discusses the “top 10 reasons why you should never speak to the police.”

[YouTube clips reposted from U. Alberta’s Law Faculty Blog]

Comments

40 Responses to “Why You Should Never Talk to the Police”

  1. Tim B on April 18th, 2009 11:49 pm

    Really interesting – thanks for posting these.

  2. Edward D. Prutschi on April 19th, 2009 7:23 pm

    While the jurisprudence is a little bit different north of the border, these videos are a great example of an enduring principle of Canadian criminal law. I cannot count how many times I have struggled to convince a new client NOT to go running off to the police station to engage in the folly of a ‘fireside chat’ with a local officer regarding charges he / she is facing.

    The urge to comply with the ultimate authority figure in our lives (a police officer) is almost insurmountable. The reason to resist has at its core what I call the ‘asymaterical informational component’ of a police interview. The officer has a complete picture of the case he/she is building against the client whereas the client usually knows next to nothing (sometimes not even knowing the nature of the charge being investigated or whether he/she is even a suspect). The client also has no clue whether the conudct they have engaged in is even criminal or not. This truly a no-win situation. At best, a vigilant client blessed with a dose of good luck and a generous police interviewer can come to a draw with the investigator — but you’ll never win.

    For a quick summary of what our firm advises our clients on this very question, check out our FAQ page at http://www.crimlawcanada.com/faq.html.

    Ed Prutchi, Barrister
    Adler Bytensky Prutschi
    Prutschi@CrimLawCanada.com
    http://www.CrimLawCanada.com
    http://www.twitter.com/prutschi

  3. Nick Miller on April 19th, 2009 9:31 pm

    This was great! Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. JamesHalifax on April 29th, 2009 4:19 pm

    You should change the headline to, “Why you should never talk to the Police….if You’re Guilty”

    If no wrong doing has occurred, then what is the worry?

  5. Lawrence Gridin on April 29th, 2009 7:04 pm

    James:
    Clearly you didn’t watch the videos. Go back and watch them.

  6. Chris on July 14th, 2009 11:40 am

    Excellent video A serious subject treat with humour Should be part of every law schools workshop

  7. Alex on July 28th, 2009 11:36 am

    Here’s a short case study of the techniques the detective in vid 2 talks about. This is from a sensational murder trial in Toronto where sentencing just concluded:

    http://www.thestar.com/videozone/672886

    Don’t talk to the police!

  8. Don on October 25th, 2009 7:21 am

    This outlines the very reason our system doesn’t work: people aren’t interested in the truth, they only want revenge.

    Note, I didn’t say that people want justice. Justice is balanced compensation, which is never enough for anyone that’s been ‘wronged’. There’s a reason so many crazy laws exist. They’re not to prevent problems, but to provide as many means possible to extort as many people as possible.

    People never, ever see each other as ‘innocent’.

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  11. John WOodson on October 25th, 2009 10:23 am

    Yup, NEVER cooperate with the cops for ANY reason. The oNLY thing you are require to do is give your name and D/O/B, thats it.

    RT
    http://www.anonymous.ua.tc

  12. Jeff Hedges on October 25th, 2009 11:52 am

    Do not talk to the police if you are a suspect or being interviewed as such. When the officer starts with questions regarding where you were or anything that generally starts pointing in your direction….that’s the time to shut up. Being a witness or questioned regarding what you may have seen is different.

  13. larry on October 25th, 2009 1:09 pm

    The question that wasn’t answered is:

    “What do you do when a police officer knocks on your door?”

    I am probably wrong but isn’t a legal requirement to cooperate with a police investigation? Doesn’t cooperating involve talking to the police officer?

    As the EXCELLENT VIDEO points out, it’s a “no win” situation – innocent or guilty.

  14. Nick Carefoot on October 25th, 2009 1:33 pm

    Also big tip for Canadians: An “interview” is still an interrogation.

  15. Radivoje Krga on October 25th, 2009 4:17 pm

    I’m not a law student but this was really interesting. I enjoyed watching this.

  16. Rick Cain on October 25th, 2009 6:41 pm

    Whats interesting is when American senators and congressmen get in trouble, they exercise the 5th amendment immediately and refuse to testify.

    They seem to know the law quite well.

  17. Ryan Venables on October 25th, 2009 11:20 pm

    The old saying “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” is very much alive in this topic.

    Admittedly, I have not and will not watch the videos, as I am pretty sure I already know what they say.

    As a former police officer I tried very hard to make people talk with me. Whether it was for them to confess to the crime, or simply to open up and tell me about the crime that they witnessed, or to tell me about the years of abuse that they have suffered.

    If I happen to become a criminal defence lawyer, I will probably tell ONLY my clients to do the same.

    Police officers are not scary boogie-men, who are out to get you.

    Being a police officer is not centred around taking people to jail. While law enforcement is central to the position, police officers wear many more hats.

    Having commentary from law professors to counsel people not to talk to the police does not do anybody any favours. Well unless you are in the back of a police car. But then again, once you are informed of your rights, and actually respond that you understand them, you are well enough informed that “what you say, can, and will be used against you in a court of law.”

    Larry,
    There are certain instances where you are required to cooperate with the police. Such as when you are pulled over as a driver.

    In the end, if you are a suspect in a crime, or you THINK you are, you’re probably best not to say anything, because anything you say can be used against you.

  18. Network Security Blog » Respect the law, but don’t talk to them on October 26th, 2009 10:14 am

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  21. Jeff Hedges on November 27th, 2009 12:02 am

    Yup, NEVER cooperate with the cops for ANY reason.

  22. Stop Anxiety on November 27th, 2009 6:48 pm

    I totally agree with not talking to any cops. You never know what or how they will take and interpret what you say. It is all up in the air. I chose not to say anything.

  23. J. Mardevic on February 2nd, 2010 12:16 pm

    As a Canadian I found the videos regarding not speaking to the police both interesting and instructive. One issue that was not addressed however is the following. If a police officer (a) phones you at your residence and leaves a message asking you to call them or (b) leaves their business card on your door with the same request is one required to comply. I would appreciate someone’s informed response to this issue. Thank-you.

    J. Mardevic

  24. bill on March 5th, 2010 3:45 pm

    Holy Christ that guy talks fast. Thanks for posting.

  25. michael on March 8th, 2010 9:21 pm

    do you have to comply when police leave phone message or note requesting to talk? NO, NEVER you do not have to ever talk to police. The only requirement to talk is to give your name when asked out in public. NOTHING ELSE and you don’t have to answer the door either unless they have a warrant.

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  27. DWPittelli on October 26th, 2010 7:36 am

    What if your child/spouse/lover is missing or murdered? You have a moral obligation (and presumably a desire) to help the police find your loved one. Further, lawyering up will change the police’s perception of you from important witness (who might also be a suspect), to prime suspect. Indeed — to the extent the press covers the story — if you refuse to cooperate with police, the public will assume you are a murderer. Having the police, the press and potential jurors believe in your guilt cannot be in your interest. So I ask the defense attorney, would you really recommend against talking to the police in such a situation?

  28. steve on March 4th, 2011 5:43 am

    This is Awesome! I also found this, it’s how to handle the cops http://howtohacklife101.blogspot.com/2011/01/f-police.html

  29. ryan on April 26th, 2011 10:31 am

    I believe you should most likely file an internal complaint against any officer or service you feel is doing that. If you feel the above is the case, you should put your concerns in writing, of course in a non incriminating manner (e.g. My name is ” blah blah” and I have serious concerns that this particular officer/service is maliciously and deliberately attempting to use the system.. etc. etc. for an improper purpose other than that of carrying the law in effect such as…)I would then of course put it in affidavit form and file a statement of claim in your higher court for either an injunction/monetary claim/ or both :)). Make sure what you write in your affidavit is true to the best of your knowledge though cuz you could be cross examined on it and anything counts pertaining any emotional/mental anguish/distress so make sure to attach all counselling estimates and pertinent documentation as exhibits to that affidavit.

  30. gary on April 28th, 2011 8:11 am

    i get pulled over all the time i have a record of guns and drugs and a few times they will try to do a search and i say are u asking me to consent to a search i tell them i do not consent. But then again if your car smells like weed or if your doing something else stupid then they will search your ass. Be smart and dont give them a reason for the stop to go any further. I sometimes ask for there card and say your harrassing me you pulled me over for no reason lol, this lets them know u know your shit.

  31. Noel Fox on May 19th, 2011 9:37 pm

    Yeah this is true , enjoyed the videos . The suspect should always have a lawyer in place before entering in a discussion with the police

  32. Rob on June 23rd, 2011 11:14 am

    A really interesting article – this is information everyone should be aware of.

  33. Ian on July 20th, 2011 1:31 am

    This blog begins with a stated and qualified point of view and when you get through the rest of the comments posters are saying things like “never ever cooperate”, “never talk”…Well this blog is an injustice. Some people will be in situations they witness, or their friends put them into or others accuse them of. A police officer is an investigator. The fruits of the investigation belong to the state and to refuse to contribute is wrong for you, your family and the rest of society.

  34. Luke on August 24th, 2011 9:04 pm

    For JamesHalifax: You say what is the worry, like if you’re not guilty ? That was all explained in the video, watch it again, and this time pay attention. My friend, you are definitely one that should never talk to the police.

  35. rachel on December 1st, 2011 11:16 am

    Man all of you must be so delusional, everyone is guilty of something just ask a cop.

  36. Veronica on January 27th, 2012 7:15 am

    I went to a police station to report a personal crime against me. I was told by more than one person of authority to talk to the police about this because of certain reasons. I was even told by the police to go to a specific police station. Well, I went there, was accused of being a pro becuase I’m female and I was abused and tasered because I was bothering them and they didn’t want to listen to me. I don’t have a criminal record. I was told never go to a police station becuase they can do anything they want to you there. I had no rights. I was held against my will and was not under arrest.

  37. Ian on March 20th, 2012 1:35 pm

    Everyone is a member of Society and has responsibilities to it. Refusing to cooperate with an investigating police officer MAY only help you if you want to live that sort of life on the wrong side of the law. The police will figure out who you are and you will need a lawyer. Lawyers love that because they get paid, whether or not they have your best interests in mind. Counseling a person on how to get away with law-breaking is bad advice, that is – If youve grown up!

  38. Criminal Mind on October 1st, 2012 4:15 am

    First of all don’t taddle tail. This is something we learn when we are children. The ONLY crime that is acceptable to report to the police is child abuse and molestation. If you are female rape and abuse is also acceptable. Everything else is mind your own damn business. In a case where you are a victim, grow a pair like a man and handle it.

    As for heeding your lawyers advice “Don’t say anything!” or as my lawyer says “Don’t say shit!” is the single best piece of advic you will ever hear. For all the reasons stated in these videos. Most importantly because you or your tax dollars are paying this person FOR A REASON. That main reason is your lawyer is a professional speaker on your behalf. Don’t speak at your interview, at bail hearing or at court. Your lawyer will destroy everything against you if you just shut it.

  39. very confused on November 4th, 2012 12:14 pm

    What happens if a police investigator interviews me regarding a case in my office and tells me I can’t tell anyone. Am I legally bound by this? Can I get in trouble if I do?

  40. Mark on January 31st, 2013 9:38 am

    This video is about KNOWING YOUR RIGHTS plain and simple. Most people dont know their rights and as a consequence they let the police walk all over them. There is a huge inbalance of power when talking to the police, they know the law, are trained to ask questions and have the power of arrest. Stating that you will not provide information to possibly screw yourself is your right…period!

    Unfortunately, most people are trained to be subservient to the police so standing up for yourself somehow feels wrong, it shouldnt.

    Check this video out and practice saying…I dont consent to searches…Am I being detained….and Am I free to go. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqMjMPlXzdA

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