Remember that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song that advised "… teach your children well… and feed them on your dreams…." Unfortunately, too often we teach our children that the police are only there to help, and that if they just tell the truth their problems will go away. So it was again this week when I met with a father whose son will likely be charged with burglary. The kid and some others "went into a friends house" to check out his new stereo. Stereo later disappeared and the cops showed up to question the kids. There is almost always more to the story and in the end, one of the kids told a different story than some of them and now all are looking at criminal charges for burglary and grand theft. The dad told me his kid told the absolute truth, and he could not figure out how anyone could charge his son with a crime – "after all, the cop said nothing would happen if he just told the truth."
Teach your children well – the police may want help in solving the crime, but they DO NOT HAVE TO TELL THEIR STORY! Not then. Not to the police. Not even if the police say it will all be better and their "version" will go to the prosecutor. The right to remain silent is just that – a RIGHT to remain silent so that the potential defendant can get an assessment of the true nature of the problem BEFORE providing the story.
You would be surprised how many well meaning folks dig a deeper hole for themselves by making a statement to the police. Even if there is no real evidence that the person committed the crime, the police will want it in writing. And once it is in writing – that is your story. The jury will believe it is the real truth, not some watered down version constructed after the charges were filed. Result – most of the time that statement that seems so innocuous becomes the key to the case.
So if the police come knocking – just tell them you want to talk to a lawyer FIRST. To find one, check out the articles in this blog on picking the right lawyer.