In a recent article, I reiterated the best legal advice you can ever get: shut up and always exercise your right to remain silent. As a Michigan criminal attorney, my office gets plenty of calls from people who have been contacted by the police (often a police detective) and who have been asked to answer some questions. While I hope this article will be of use to those who have not yet talked to the police about their “situation,” the reality is that many of those who read it will have already done so.
Unfortunately, we are frequently called after the person has already spoken to the police and answered questions. Without fail, every single person who calls after speaking with the police says something like “I think I might have made things worse,” because they realize, although only after the fact, that they should have kept quiet. If you’re reading this after you’ve talked, don’t freak out. Most people do. Then my job becomes making the best of what we have to work with.
The problem isn’t that people don’t know that about their right to remain silent, it’s that they don’t know how to exercise it and keep quiet when they’re being questioned by the police. Somewhat ironically, if a person feels uncomfortable refusing to speak to the police, it’s kind of a reflection of having been raised “right.” For example, I was taught to respect the police. It’s really easy for me to sit here and tell the reader to refuse to answer questions, but I know it would be a much different situation if I had law enforcement bearing down on me with pointed questions about some situation. I’d probably need someone to remind me to keep quiet.