DON'T TALK TO COPS By Robert W. Zeuner, Member of the New York State Bar +quot;GOOD MORNIN
DON'T TALK TO COPS
By Robert W. Zeuner, Member of the New York State Bar
"GOOD MORNING! My name is investigator Holmes. Do you mind answering
a few simple questions?" If you open your door one day and are greeted
with those words, STOP AND THINK! Whether it is the local police or
the FBI at your door, you have certain legal rights of which you ought
to be aware before you proceed any further.
In the first place, when the law enforcement authorities come
to see you, there are no "simple questions". Unless they are
investigating a traffic accident, you can be sure they want information
about somebody. And that somebody may be you!
Rule Number One to remember when confronted by the authorities
is that there is no law requiring you to talk with the police, the
FBI, or the representative of any other investigative agency. Even the
simplest questions may be loaded, and the seemingly harmless bits of
information which you volunteer may later become vital links in a chain
of circumstantial evidence against you or a friend.
DO NOT INVITE THE INVESTIGATOR INTO YOUR HOME!
Such an invitation not only gives him the opportunity to look around for
clues to your lifestyle, frieds, reading material, etc., but also tends to
prolong the conversation. And the longer the conversation, the more chance
there is for a skilled investigator to find out what he wants to know.
Many times a police officer will ask you to accompany him to the
police station to answer a few questions. In that case, simply thank him
for the invitation and indicate that you are not disposed to accept it at
that time. Often the authorities simply want to photograph a person for
identification purposes, a procedure which is easily accomplished by
placing him in a private room with a two-way mirror at the station, asking
him a few innocent questions, and then releasing him.
If the investigator becomes angry at your failure to cooperate and
threatens you with arrest, stand firm. He cannot legally place you under
arrest or enter your home without a warrant signed by a judge. If he
indicates that he has such a warrant, ask to see it. A person under
arrest, or located on premises to be searched, generally must be shown a
warrant if he requests it and must be given a chance to read it.
Without a warrant, an officer depends solely on your helpfulness to obtain
the information he wants. So, unless you are quite sure of yourself, don't
Probably the wisest approach to take to a persistent investigator is
simply to say: "I'm quite busy now. If you have any questions that you
feel I can answer, I'd be happy to listen to them in my lawyer's office.
Talk is cheap. But when that talk involves the law enforcement
authorities, it may cost you, or someone close to you, dearly.
This leaflet has been printed as a public service by individuals
concerned with the growing role of authoritarianism and police power in
our society. Please feel free to copy or republish.
Any typos are mine, as is the damage from squashing italics into UPPER-CASE.
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