Stop Snitching on Yourself!

If it was only as the Boondocks portrayed it.

I have been a practicing attorney for a number of years. Whenever I speak to my clients, one of the first things that I talk with them about is if he or she has talked with law enforcement. When my client tells me that they have done so, I know that things are going to be difficult in preparing a defense. From my experience, it is never a good idea to talk to law enforcement. Here are my top reasons why talking to law enforcement is never a good idea, and to plea the 5th like Dave Chappelle did.

Reason #1: Anything you say can be used against you, but not for you.

Simply put, if you make a statement that helps you, it is called self-serving hearsay, and the rules of evidence and case law in Georgia states that a defendant cannot use his written or recorded statement or have a witness testify about a defendant’s exculpatory statement, until he testifies and is subject to cross-examination.

Reason #2: People are social animals. Law Enforcement Officers know this, and use this to their advantage.

People like to talk. People like to tell their story. People want to know why law enforcement has arrested them. People want to try to persuade people that they are good, especially when someone accuses them of a crime. Law enforcement officers know this, and they are willing to give you some information about the situation, just to get to you to talk.

Reason #3: Information Disadvantages leads to perceived fabrications.

Law Enforcement officers know more about the alleged crime than does the defendant. When a defendant talks about his side of the story, it is based on an incomplete picture of the evidence that the State has against him. When the defendant learns of the evidence against him through the discovery process and consulting with his attorney, there may be minor alterations to the defendant’s story. The State will jump on these minor differences to build a claim that the defendant is fabricating his story, and that he is trying to stay one-step ahead.

Reason #4: Law Enforcement records most statements that a defendant may give on either video or audio.

Recordings allow juries to see and hear the defendant in his own words. It allows a jury to avoid deciding credibility battles between law enforcement officer and a defendant.

Reason #4(a): Recordings shows tone of voice and nonverbal cues.

While there are studies showing that the ability of people to determine the truthfulness from body cues is not a reliable way to determine if someone is telling the truth, people have been doing it for years and will likely to continue for the near future.

Reason #5: You are giving the State a preview of how you will testify on the stand.

Prosecutors love when a defendant gives a statement to law enforcement, even if it is not a confession. It gives them a preview of how a defendant will testify on the stand. It gives them the ability to ascertain what buttons to push on a defendant to knock him off his game. It gives them a clear line of attacking a defendant’s credibility, even if the defendant does not have a prior record.

Reason #6: If you talk to the police, you may have to take the stand, at your trial.

When a defendant talks to law enforcement, it allows the State to set the narrative as to what the defendant said, what he meant, and if the defendant committed the offense. While there are other ways for a criminal defense attorney to attack this narrative, a key way to attack the narrative is for the client to testify. I know that a defendant has the right not to testify in his defense. I know that the Court has to instruct the jury that a defendant has this right, and they cannot use that against him. Unfortunately, that is theory. The reality is that jurors want to hear a defendant testify; they want him to deny the allegations against him; they want to look him in the eye to see if they can tell if he is telling the truth. Even with proper preparation, a client taking the stand puts himself into a precarious situation. It can be avoided if the client would just shut up when law enforcement wants to talk to him.

Epilogue:

Everything in this post presumes that the State is able to get a defendant’s statement into evidence. How a criminal defense attorney tries to keep out a defendant’s statement is the subject of a future post.

Moreover, here is a video from a law professor (former criminal defense attorney) and a former police officer that show you why that my reasons for why you should not talk to the police are not just a product of my years of experience:

DISCLAIMER: This post does not constitute legal advice. This post does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between you and me. Until you retain me, I am not your attorney. Moreover, this post is general information, and it does not replace the advice and counsel of an attorney that has reviewed the evidence in your case and has investigated the case on your behalf. In plain English, this is just general information; I do not represent you; my posts do not replace your attorney’s advice.

Since November 4, 2000, I have been practicing attorney. I have spent the majority of my career as a criminal defense attorney. I have handled all aspects of criminal litigation including committal hearings, arraignments, plea negotiations, motion preparation and argument, judge and jury trials, probation revocation hearings, and appeals with one singular goal: to defend my clients to the best of my ability. I believe that every person has a right to be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness in the eyes of the law. I represent every client diligently and energetically. Let me do the same for you. Call me at 404-585-1377 to set up an appointment to discuss your case.

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