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10 Golden Rules to Follow If You're Questioned By the Police

Being questioned by the police ranges from intimidating to downright terrifying. If you say the wrong thing or slip up, it could have devastating consequences for your future.

So what rules should you follow if you're being questioned by the police? And how do you get the help you need in this situation?

Golden Rules to Follow If You're Questioned By the Police

If you follow these golden rules, you'll be in a much better position:

  1.   Get a lawyer as soon as possible. Hire a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. This needs to be your biggest and most urgent priority, as your lawyer is going to help you conduct yourself properly when being questioned by the police. They can provide you with immediate advice, supervise police officers to make sure they're conducting themselves in accordance with the law, and help you understand the charges you face (if applicable). Without a lawyer, you'll be flying blind and likely make critical errors that could cause complications for your future. Accordingly, the sooner you get a lawyer, the better.
  2.   Stay silent. When in doubt, simply stay silent. You have the right to remain silent, so you might as well put that right to good use. Anything that you say to police officers can and probably will be used against you, so the safest course of action is to refuse to answer questions. Do keep in mind that you may be required to give certain pieces of information to police officers, such as showing them your driver's license if you've been pulled over or providing them with your name.
  3.   Comply peacefully. If you don’t comply peacefully with officers, you may end up facing a resisting arrest charge – and that’s a possibility even if you didn’t initially commit a crime. No matter how you feel about the situation or how officers are treating you, it's in your best interest to comply peacefully when police officers give you a command.
  4.   Be respectful. Similarly, it's important to be polite and respectful when engaging with police officers, even if they aren't reciprocating your politeness and respect. You may be tempted to start insulting or verbally fighting with police, but this will likely paint you as an antagonist and potentially motivate officers to come down harder on you. Plus, jurors will see you in a better light if you present yourself calmly and respectfully the entire time.
  5.   Speak minimally. If you choose to provide information to police officers, keep it minimal. Don't provide more details than are necessary; keep your responses to only a few words at a time. Police officers want you to keep talking; that's because the more you talk, the more likely you are to slip up. Even if you're innocent of any wrongdoing, you could easily and unwittingly talk yourself into a prison sentence.
  6.   Do not lie. When talking to police officers, avoid lying. It may be tempting to try and deceive police officers about what you were doing or where you were going, but even a small lie can land you in trouble. Police officers will often ask you questions repeatedly to see if your story changes; if you can't keep up with the lies you've told, the lies will quickly unravel, and police will have a reason to suspect you've done something wrong.
  7.   Understand that officers can and will lie to you. Police officers can – and probably will – lie to you. They may claim that they can get you a reduced sentence or that they genuinely want to help you out, but it's safe to assume that these are lies. They may also claim to have hard evidence against you, such as video of you committing the crime; this isn't necessarily true. Don't allow police officers to convince you that you're in a much worse position than you actually are.
  8.   Assume that everything is a trick. Lying is just one of many forms of deception and manipulation that police officers will try to use against you. Remember, police officers aren't your friends, and they probably don't have your personal best interests in mind. They're much more interested in getting successful prosecutions. Accordingly, you should take everything they have to say with a grain of salt.
  9.   Remember as many details as you can. Throughout the interrogation and throughout any other interactions you have with police officers, try to remember as many details as possible. Pay attention to who's interacting with you, the timeline of the interrogation, and the behaviors of the officers around you. These details may come in handy later, especially if you were mistreated in any way.
  10.   Comply with your lawyer’s advice. Hopefully, you'll have a lawyer by your side early on in the interrogation process. Once they've arrived, comply with all the advice they give you.

Protecting Yourself

If you're under arrest, or just being questioned by the police, your top priority needs to become protecting yourself. Conducting yourself the right way, answering questions tactfully (if you answer them at all), and complying with the advice given to you by your lawyer should be enough to get you the best possible results. In some cases, that means getting a reduced sentence or facing lesser charges. In some cases, you may have charges dropped against you entirely.

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