Like most Virginia residents, you are probably nervous when you are around a police officer. Whether you are pulled over as part of a routine traffic stop, detained at a DWI checkpoint or find a police officer at your front door, it is natural to want to cooperate and answer questions.
So why do you keep hearing about how talking to police is a bad idea? The reason is because talking to police is typically not in your best interest and can potentially weaken any future criminal defense.
You may think that if you act polite, respectful and answer your questions, they will let you go, or go easy on you. This is not true. In fact, they are sometimes counting on you thinking this way.
Your words can be used against you
All talking does is provide the police with more information or evidence to potentially use against you. Every word you say matters, and even the most innocent sounding remarks can be used against you.
For example, saying “I’m sorry” could be interpreted as an admission of guilt. Remember that you always have the right to remain silent.
You should state your name to a police officer if asked, but you are under no obligation to say anything else. If the police keep asking you questions, say that you are exercising your constitutional right to remain silent.
Your right to leave
You also have a right to leave if you are not under arrest. Ask if you are under arrest, and if the police officer says no, ask if you are free to leave.
If you are not under arrest, you are legally free to leave, and this is what the police officer should tell you. However, when you do leave, do so calmly and slowly. Do not cause a confrontation or act in a disruptive manner.
You have many other rights during an encounter with a police officer, related to things like searches and seizures of your property. Talking with a criminal defense attorney can help you determine if any of your rights have been violated.