Never talk to the police without an attorney

I’m putting this post up today and leaving it throughout the weekend because I believe it is so important that everyone watch the videos at the bottom.

These long must-watch videos are in two parts: the first part is by a defense attorney discussing the unbelievable complexity of the law, especially federal law, and the difficulty of simply going through life without knowingly or unknowingly breaking some kind of law.  And he discusses the dangers of talking to the police without a lawyer present.  The second part is a talk by a police detective confirming everything the attorney says and, fascinatingly, discussing his own tricks, learned in over 25 years of police work, to get people to talk to him and even to confess to crimes.

I’ll probably alienate any readers who are involved in law enforcement, which isn’t my intention.  I’m sure that if any law enforcement officials were suddenly under investigation, they wouldn’t say a word without their lawyer present.  The rest of us need these same protections.

I’m not presenting these videos for any criminals who may be reading, but for the average citizen who happens to get crosswise with the police.  Every single police officer I know (and I know a half dozen or so) are hard working, dedicated, responsible, and even kind-hearted folks, but they can make mistakes.  I make mistakes, so I figure they can too.  The officer speaking on the last part of this video says that he doesn’t really interrogate people that he doesn’t think are already guilty.  So, you are basically assumed guilty if you’re under investigation for whatever.  And if the officer is mistaken, you can be in real trouble.  You can’t talk your way out of it; you can only make it worse.  When you watch these videos, you’ll see what I mean.

Martha Stewart spent six months in a federal prison not because she did anything wrong during her alleged insider trading, but because she lied to a federal official.  And it’s easy to lie unintentionally.  Let me give you an example.

When MD and I lived in Little Rock after we had gone into practice, we lived in two different houses.  In the first house, I played a practical joke on her brother out on the front porch that we’ve all laughed about for years.  The joke involved a wallet MD’s dad had left at our house that her brother was coming by to pickup to take back to her father. (The joke involved inside family information and wouldn’t make sense if I described it.  But it was hilarious – to me anyway.  I’m sure her brother may not have felt the same way about it.  Come to think of it, he never came around much after that.)  MD’s father died a couple of years later, and a year or two after that, MD and I moved into the house we lived in for the last 15 years we were in Little Rock.  Not long ago, MD was telling someone visiting from Little Rock about this joke.  As I listened, it dawned on me that MD was telling this story as if it had happened at the last house we lived in.  Later I asked her about where she thought we lived when this happened.  She said ‘on Riverview Point’ (the last house, #2 Riverview Point).  I told her that it had happened in the previous house.  She told me that I was crazy and that I should know better by now than to question her memory.  (She’s right.  She has a unbelievably phenomenal memory.  Probably the best I’ve ever been around.  Whenever I question it, I am almost invariably wrong.  So I seldom question it any longer.)  She said she remembered her brother coming to the door, the joke, and us laughing about it in the Riverview Point kitchen.  I then told her that it couldn’t have happened in the Riverview Point house because her dad had died before we ever moved there.  After a long pause, she said, I know you have to be right, but I remember so clearly that all happening on Riverview Point.

The above story is a benign example of the kind of misremembering that we all have done.  But what if MD were being questioned by the police about the incident and she swore it happened on Riverview Point?  When she would be found to be wrong, it would look like she were intentionally lying.  And if she did so to a federal investigator, she could go to prison.  Remembering incorrectly and lying are two different things, but it’s easy for law enforcement officials trying to make a case to believe that a flaw of memory is an intentional lie. Especially if spoken with authority.

The tragic Jon Benet Ramsey murder took place right after MD and I had moved to Boulder, CO, so we were keenly aware of all that went on with that. Living in Boulder, you couldn’t avoid it. I’ve driven a hundred guests by the Ramsey house, which, by the way, isn’t a mansion as was reported by virtually all the national media, as in ‘the Ramsey mansion.’  It’s smaller than our house, which certainly isn’t a mansion.  The Ramsey house is an upper middle-class house in an upper middle-class neighborhood that sits cheek by jowl with all the other such houses on the street.  There isn’t 30 feet between adjacent houses on the Ramsey’s street, which is certainly not the case for mansions, at least not as I think of mansions.

As I’m sure everyone remembers from the constant media exposure, the Ramsey family wouldn’t speak to the police without their attorney present.  Everyone (including yours truly) figured that one of the Ramsey’s (probably the son) had committed the murder, and that the Ramsey’s were protecting the guilty family member.  Why else wouldn’t they speak with the police?  They were smart.  They did just what the lawyer in this video recommends for all the reasons he recommends.  And it saved their bacon.  I believe that the Boulder police believed that one of the Ramsey’s were guilty, and the Boulder police were under huge pressure to solve the crime.  But the police could never get any traction in the case because of the Ramsey’s attorney.  Had the Ramsey’s spoken freely with the police, one of them may well have been charged with the crime simply because of a slip of the tongue.  A misremembrance that the police categorized as a lie.  As it turns out, DNA evidence has recently exculpated the Ramseys.  But at the time, they were in peril because public opinion had it that one of them was guilty.  And I’m sure the police were predisposed to charge them.

Most clever career criminals know to never speak to the police without an attorney.  The stupid criminals don’t make it long as criminals before they’re locked up.  It’s the non-criminals, the category into which I hope most readers of this blog fall, who need the protections these videos describe.  Don’t think your smart enough or clever enough to intellectually steamroll over an investigator.  They are very, very good at what they do.  It’s their world, and you are totally a fish out of water in that world.

Watch and learn.  I hope you never need the lessons from these videos, but if you do, you’ll be glad you took the time to watch.  Plus, it’s entertaining.  Both speakers are excellent in completely different ways.

In Part I of the 2 video series, Mr. James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School and a former defense attorney, tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police.

In part II, an experienced policeman, Officer George Bruch, who is now a law student, tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police.

Addendum: I came across an article about an Austin, TX attorney’s business card. I don’t know anything about his ethics or ability, but the back of his card gives some pretty sound advice.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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29 thoughts on “Never talk to the police without an attorney

  1. When I saw the headline, I knew you were linking that video. I’ve had it linked in various instant messenger profiles for about four months.

    I like it and him not just because he’s from my hometown, because though the man talks a mile a minute, his words ring true.

  2. Hello Dr. Eades: Well the truth is that USA has turned into a hardcore police-fascist system, without any civil liberties, without the US constitution, without any individual rights and liberties, but with a government pointing a gun at US citizens and at the world. I don’t understand how can most people in this country live well in such an undemocratic environement. I don’t even go out and i’ts both parties who have destroyed America. It is fair to state that USA is almost like Nazi Germany, that’s why i almost don’t go out, because i am conscious of what’s happening in this country.

    Good site for more police-fascism:

    http://www.prisonplanet.com and http://www.infowars.com

  3. To see how real cops treat real people, just watch any episode of “COPS”. Probable cause – what’s that? Make sure your college and HS children see these videos. Cops pick on young people.
    The police guy is an amazing cliché of a cop: thick body, bull-neck, cheap ass K-Mart suit, purple shirt, uncoordinated tie, fizzy hair. The FIRST thing out of his fat mouth is how stupid he thinks the rest of us are. He should forget law school and head straight to central casting!
    The lawyer is worse: Talks like a methamphamine head and continuously refers to the bible! No wonder he quit the law at an early age – judges probably couldn’t stand him.

  4. Hi Michael,

    Wow, very useful even though I’m not in the US, but also quite scary too when in the second video the speakers says “that’s what I do, but I don’t try to send innocent people to jail”. Cognitive Dissonance really is a frightning element in play here. If you think the anti-low-carb faction are unscientific and prone to distorting the truth… imagine being in an “interview room” with that guy! Just goes to show that not speaking and getting your lawyer really is the best thing. I’m not sure if, outside the US, whether that would be taken as a sign of guilt though.

    Thanks for another very facinating post,

    Michael

  5. Wow! Those were powerful videos. I didn’t think i had the time to watch them completely and intended to fast forward through them in maybe 10 minutes. I was like a deer caught in the headlights and didn’t miss a word of either video. Thank You!

    That’s the same thing I did.

  6. Senor Hola..That was ‘well ‘ard'(i.e very good)

    Completely off topic unless linking this in to the twinkie defense (the guy who shot Harvey Milk as i recall ?)

    So carbs are often always fused with fat right..you mentioned this in one of yr books.

    Any reasons why this is ? Cos its the best way for the bod to store fat..have it elevate its insulin and then store whats with it or do you tink its more to do with brain function and dopamine.
    I was eating some almond rutter (nut butter) with a smidgeon of local honey and hence asking.

    Thankum

    I don’t know exactly why carbs and fat are always ‘fused,’ but they are. No one much eats butter all by itself. And few eat sugar out of the bowl. But put them together, and you’ve got frosting, which everyone loves. The fat/sugar combo is one we love just like the carb/salt combo. Who knows what in our Paleolithic past imbued us with these treacherous likes since we never got them early on.

  7. I went to Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA and am VERY familiar with Dr. James Duane. I took a few law classes as part of my public policy education and this guy was always quite entertaining as much as he was informative. Tough teacher, but very effective communicator. THANKS for sharing his video, Dr. Mike! The man knows his stuff. And, of course he’s gonna quote the Bible a lot–Regent is a Bible-based Christian graduate school where the principles of God’s Holy Word are taught in a variety of curriculum, including law, public policy, journalism, the fine arts, and more. Their mission is to send their students out into the world with a Christian worldview to bring about change for the better. I’ve always honored and respected the education I received there.

  8. Thanks for posting this, Dr. Eades.

    And thanks, Haggus, for that incredible BUSTED link. That Busted video gave me the nitty-gritty of exactly what to say and how to behave.

    I am putting a monthly reminder in my digital calendar to review these phrases:

    Officer, I do not consent to any searches.
    Officer, I have nothing to say until I speak with my lawyer.
    Officer, am I free to go?

    This is good stuff.

  9. geez, after the anti-police, anti-authority rantings and weird elitist personal criticisms, I feel almost compelled to post a defense of the police. Try living near criminals if you want to see who the *real* bad guys are, instead of living in your little sheltered existences. Or have a gang of them come up to you on the street.

    But sticking to the topic… In general, I agree with the presentations and they were worth the time spent. But never talk?

    1) You’re at a public event. Someone is assaulted. Three different witnesses point to three different but similarly looking people, including innocent you. The other two deny it. You refuse to deny it. Guess who goes to jail and now has to pay a retainer ($5,000?) to a lawyer. That’s a practical counter to the idealized notion of “never”. Even the officer said he sometimes did let people go after being in the interview room and convincing him they didn’t do it, which is at a level of suspicion far beyond the street interview.

    2) If the Ramseys had talked to the police and the police thereafter looked elsewhere for the murderer, then the Ramseys’ personal and public lives would have been vastly better thereafter. So it was right for them not to talk if they were implicated or if they would have been unjustly convicted. It’s not reasonable to assume that if they had talked they would have automatically somehow suffered as a result. (That does *not* mean that refusing to talk makes them guilty.)

    Never say never.

    If you’re at a public event and get identified as an assailant, and you want to talk to the police about it, well, be my guest. But don’t say you weren’t warned.

    I’m not so sure the police would have folded their tents and slunk away had the Ramsey’s spoken with them. But if you’re ever in that situation – God forbid – do what you think is right. I’ll be calling my attorney.

    I’m in total agreement with you that the police provide a valuable service, and I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a city without a police force. But I want to maintain the same protections for myself that clever criminals use for themselves. The ability to use the 5th Amendment was put into the Bill of Rights by the Founding Fathers for a reason. In my opinion, anyone is a fool not to use it.

  10. Loved the videos (widh I could talk that fast to a classroom full of sponges), the following is trivial anecdotal junk.

    “How fast do you think you were going?”

    I learned the answer to that 20 years ago.

    I have been asked that question several times in my life. The first time I was honest. I was late for a college class, going down a sneaky side street, and honestly answered that I was going 35 or 40 in a 30 zone. I got a 60$ ticket.

    The second time I was asked that question I said “I don’t know. I had my cruise control set at 55”. I did not get a ticket. A quick warning and he sent me on my way! No ticket (PS, I think I was doing 65 in a 55 zone). WooHoo!

    I’ve been asked several times since my college days, and I always say that I had my cruise control set at the posted limit, and I have never gotten a ticket. :)
    The thing is- I don’t bother speeding anymore. I don’t care if people bear down on me going 80 if I’m going 55. I Don’t care! I pull up behind those people at the next light and they are only one car ahead of me. How much time do those people actually think they’re saving?

    I have turned into my Father. :) But driving is a lot easier and much less stressful on “cruise”. On cruise, one can actually listen to an entire symphonic work (start to finish) without having to monitor pedestrian things like ‘speed’ and ‘stress’.

    Thanks for the videos,
    from,
    “The Mundanes” (people who never get questioned by cops). We’re too boring. 😉

  11. I’ve got a fairly new (to me) computer and I can’t seem to watch the videos on u-tube. What plug-ins might I be missing? I’m using XP with all the updates and Firefox 3.0.

    I don’t think a plug-in is required – that’s the beauty of YouTube. The videos are all on the YouTube servers, and I just checked and found that they both work fine. I don’t know what your problem is? Can anyone offer any help? Am I missing something?

  12. I love the TV show “The Closer”. The star of the show is a former CIA interrogator. The reason to watch is the always intense interrogation and confession by a very smart southern belle. You will see very effective tactics to get confessions from criminals. I am always uneasy because the tactics are universal and will work on everyone.

  13. Hi Dr Mike,

    I know that this is serious business, and watching those videos really opened my eyes. Thank you for posting them.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like offer a little comic relief by linking another video I came across while exploring this issue on YouTube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MwxYn4BhoQ

    It’s hilarious, but I warn you readers: it’s a Chris Rock video, so don’t watch it if you have “sensitive” ears, and don’t say I didn’t warn you!

    I’ve seen this Chris Rock video a dozen times, and it truly is hilarious. I read not long ago that some Tennessee police official got in big trouble for showing this to the troops, which simply proves that there is way, way too much PC in this country. And the amount of PC we have is just a drop in the bucket as compared to the UK.

  14. These videos were fascinating and I had the same experience as you and an earlier poster — was only planning to watch a minute or two and couldn’t stop.

    Nonetheless, I feel constrained to say the following. I check your blog for your interesting and valuable insights into nutrition which have been very helpful to me. However, I am finding your increasing number of posts on random topics quite disconcerting. Moreover, the fact that I happen to disagree with some of your “political” views is starting to spill over into my wondering about the reliability of your writings on nutrition. (I’m not trying to justify that I feel this way — just trying to be honest.)

    Why not start a separate (sub)blog for these “off-topic” posts?

    Perhaps the reliability of my nutritional writings should reflect on the reliability of my political writings.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  15. Sorry Mike but the US is wayyyyyyy more PC than the UK. Tune into Little Britain USA on HBO to see what I mean. That is shown on normal TV over here :)

    I’ll give it a look.

  16. Wise advice. Don’t talk to your federal government about enforcement action without an attorney. Know your rights, assuming they are knowable. Hire expertise to know them where they are more complicated.

    -MLH, your friendly federal employee (I only enforce on feds)

  17. I wish I had seen this a couple of years ago. My family has been touched by this type of police manipulation. This story will give those parents of teenagers something to think about discuss with them.

    A few years ago my son was stopped by police because he was smoking pot while driving with some friends and a girl he had just met. (Granted I don’t condone smoking pot and I realize that what he was doing is illegal.) My son was 18 at the time, taking AP classes in high school, getting good grades with the intent of becoming a history teacher someday. He had never been arrested. The officer found a very small amount of pot on my son, the minimum amount of pot on the girl which would allow arresting her with intent to sell which was somewhere between 2-3 ounces apparently.

    At the police station my son requested to call his parents but was not allowed to. The officer started to talk to him about getting high, that he smokes etc., getting my son relaxed about the whole thing. The officer suspected that my son was in on selling pot with this girl. My son claimed he was not a drug dealer (true) didn’t know this girl had that much pot on her (true) and had just met her (true). The officer asked him if he knew people who sold pot. “Yes.” The officer asked what if one of your friends asked you where to get pot? My son:”I might tell them if I knew where I thought they could get some.”

    After this went on for a couple of hours, the officer wrote a description of the nights events and told my son to sign. My son claimed it wasn’t really what he had said and that the officer twisted his words around enough to give a different impression. The officer used phrases like, hooked people up with drugs, etc. But being under pressure, very scared, feeling helpless, tired and under the influence, my son signed.

    I called the police station the next morning and complained to this officer’s boss. I could not believe what had just happened. Big mistake! I quickly realized it was a useless attempt. As a result, my son was charged with the felony a hard core drug dealer gets, which is allowed as the driver of the vehicle. He was expelled from high school, did escape jail but was put on probation for 2 years and required to go to daily classes for almost the whole time with all of these hood rats as the officer in the video calls them. Even his probation officer constantly claimed that the whole situation was a shame and that my son didn’t belong in the system. It was a totally demoralizing, depressing and frustrating experience for him. It sent him into a downward spiral which honestly I don’t believe he will ever recover from. He does not want to go back to school and feels that this experience took too much from his life in both time and his spirit. Of course it is hard to convince young people that they still have their whole life ahead of them.

    Maybe the lawyer that cost us thousands kept him out of jail. We’ll never know. The lawyer did say that if my son never talked to the police, the court probably would have dropped the charges. A tough way to learn a lesson…

    A tough way, indeed. I’m sure the officer responsible went home after a hard day’s work and never gave what he did another thought. Meanwhile a young life has been totally turned upside down for the most minor of infractions. The officers involved should be ashamed. My condolences.

  18. People have no idea how bad the situation is, until they get caught in the meat grinder. Several years ago, I just barely avoided a jail sentence. (The cop who thought that arresting me would be a brilliant career move since has been fired for shooting an unarmed suspect in the back.) The friend of a friend currently is in his fifth month in jail, awaiting trial on a weaponless assault charge. The victim is influential, and bail is set at half a million dollars–again, on a weaponless assault charge. Meanwhile, two nearly identical assaults have occurred in the same general location. The prosecution currently is stalling and monkeying with witnesses, in the obvious hope of shifting the time of the assault forward about half an hour, because this man has an alibi for the time the assault actually occurred. And so on and so forth.

    We’re living in a police state, folks.

  19. Dear Dr. Eades,

    Thanks for posting that video. It was so informative that I decided to take the time to watch the video “Haggus” posted also – thanks Haggus!

    By the way, please continue posting whatever strikes your fancy, even when it doesn’t relate to nutrition :)

    Thanks. I will.

  20. The example you gave of misremembering the location of the practical joke is eerily similar to the Challenger study quoted in the book “On Being Certain” which is a fantastic read.

    Very nice post.

  21. Things I learned from these videos:
    1 – 10. Do not talk to the police without a lawyer. EVER.
    11. People like working hard, but not futilely. Police bring someone in for questioning, get something they can work with and go with that. Another way to put it is that human minds do not work with vacuums. The person might not be guilty of the crime, but the police and lawyers CAN work with what s/he said, barring a better suspect.

    Because I love my Constitutional rights, if a policeman ever asks to search my vehicle, I’ll refuse. I’m willing to spend some time waiting for a warrant to be either issued or denied. Might as well celebrate those rights while they’re there!

    Yes, the police do provide a valuable service and in general I appreciate the fact that they are there.

    I agree across the board.

  22. When I initially saw this video, I sent it to all my friends who have high school/college aged kids. I live in a small town where the town cops habitually pull over kids who drive better cars than most of the police force. I have come to the conclusion that ‘most’ of the kids in this age group in this town are basically good kids but they aren’t that street-wise especially when it comes to dealing with the local police. I find it amusing that our kids are taught in school what it means to be an American and their Constitutional Rights but they don’t apply them when pulled over and wind up turning a non-issue into an issue. I have three children – two are grown and out of the house, my youngest is 14. I sat him down, let him watch the video and told him, “This is for real – just because you’re are a kid, you still have the same rights as an adult. If you speak to them, they will lie and twist your words around so say nothing should the situation arise”. Kids don’t realize how important this really is – it could very well protect their future and I’m sick over the fact that I even had to have that conversation with my child. All parents in today’s society should be drilling one phrase into their child’s head, “I’m not speaking to the police without my attorney present”.

    What I found frightening was that a couple of years ago at the local high school, they sponsored a drug program – sort of a fyi for parents and kids about drugs, etc. Of course, the State Police were there saying, “Please don’t be afraid to speak to the police, we need you to work with us concerning the drug issue – we need your help” while the kids who were part of this program stood by, nodding their heads like mindless bobbleheads. I wanted to stand up and say, “Just WHO do you think you’re talking to?” – but refrained.
    To: Nameless – My heart breaks for your son and your family – a terrible lesson to learn so young. I hope your son comes to realize that he is one of many in that position and that he can overcome – he’s learned a lesson early on so he’s ahead of the game. I hope he chooses to move on and rise above the garbage he’s had to endure.

  23. Wow! These videos are amazing. I was astonished at how “the system” is set up for the average person to fail. I don’t like it, but it is something we should be aware of. I used to believe that “the truth shall set you free”, but it truly is best NOT to talk to the police when you are the subject of an investigation.

    It’s an odd feeling, as I like to think of myself as a truthful person, who would be more-than-willing to tell my version of events, when needed, but I now understand that in the legal system, that “truth” can — and does — work against me. I’m glad I’ve never been in jail or anything similar, but if I were, you can be sure that I would be as silent as a mouse (until my attorney arrives).