Why Law Enforcement Is Not Always A Friend

As a criminal defense attorney and former cop, I’ve spent a lot of time around police. In fact, some of the smartest and savviest people I know are members of the law enforcement community. I can tell you from experience that the days of bumbling “Barney Fife” and the Mayberry P.D. are long gone. Today, for the most part, we are dealing with a significantly more advanced group of professionals. Police are better educated and better trained than ever before. As a result of this increased sophistication, the need to understand and be aware of one’s constitutional rights is more important than ever. Here are some helpful tips if you ever find yourself in this situation.

1. No matter what they say, if you’re accused of a crime, the police are NEVER on your side.

When I was a young police officer I remember a particular detective and the technique he used when conducting suspect interviews. First, he would cheerfully introduce himself (by his first name) and then proceed to spend approximately an hour “chatting”. The topics of conversation spanned everything from techniques to grow fantastic tomatoes to the most efficient way to heat your house, and everything in between. He always bought the suspect a coffee or a sandwich and even though he didn’t smoke, seemed to have an endless supply and variety of cigarettes.

An interview with him was like talking to an old friend or an uncle. No matter what the person was accused of, he always conveyed that he understood, even sympathized, with their position. That is, until they actually confessed. From that point forward it was all business. No more smiles and small talk, just shackles and bail recommendations.

The moral of the story is the police have a very specific job to do: They arrest people. To do that job effectively, they must be able to extract evidence from individuals in very efficient ways. Law enforcement is aware of this responsibility and thus spend countless hours training officers in the art of extracting information. Even if the officer seems like your friend and seems like he legitimately wants to help you, at the end of the day, his duty as a police officer will triumph over any feelings of endearment he may have for you. He will write that report, he will push for that confession, and he will testify against you in court. This is their job and they understand it. If you want to protect yourself, so should you.

2. Exercising your right to a lawyer does not make your situation worse, in fact, it usually makes it better.

We’ve all seen it: The TV drama where the cop busts the “perp” after a long and usually very arduous chase. Then, right at the moment he’s ready to slap the cuffs on he says in his best Clint Eastwood, “Dirty Harry” voice, “read this [insert expletive here] his Rights…”

All of us, both citizens and residents of the United States, have certain rights that apply when we are arrested or interrogated by the police. Chief among these is the right to remain silent. In the business, (both movie and legal) these are known as your “Miranda Rights”. In a nutshell they say that you have an absolute right to remain silent. This, however, is not the most important part of Miranda. The most important part is that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

This means that anything you say after the police tell you about your rights is fair game for their case against you. Therefore, the best way to avoid the potential of getting yourself into more trouble is to simply say those four magic words, “I want a lawyer.”

Contact our firm if you have any questions about how our Harrisburg criminal defense attorneys can help you. We are available 24/7 to take your calls.