I was reading online about a book called The Criminal Law Handbook, by Sara Berman and Paul Bergman. It seems to have some good information in it, but while reading a “Free Chapter” on the http://www.nolo.com website, I came across this:
10. Can it ever help me to answer a police officer’s questions?
Yes. Police officers may be as interested in clearing the innocent as in convicting the guilty. People can often clear their names as well as help the police find the real perpetrators by answering a few straightforward questions. For example, assume that Wally, a possible suspect, can demonstrate that “I was at dinner with Andre” at the moment a crime was committed. Wally both removes himself as a suspect and enables the police to concentrate their efforts elsewhere.
And legal rights aside, the truth on the street is that people often can make life easier for themselves by cooperating with police officers—so long as they don’t have a good reason not to. “Contempt of cop” has resulted in the arrest and even physical injury of more than one innocent person. When innocent people who are pulled over or questioned by police officers stand on their rights too forcefully, events can sometimes get out of control rather quickly.
I’m surprised to see two JDs actually saying—in print, no less—that talking to the police can be a good idea. I’m not saying they’re wrong that it could sometimes possibly help, but I am saying that the risk is to great that, even if you’re 100% innocent, you still may end up screwing yourself by talking to the police. The authors say that “[p]olice officers may be as interested in clearing the innocent as in convicting the guilty.” Well yeah, they may be. What if they knock on your door and tell you they think you’re innocent (which you are), but they just want to rule you out as a suspect. You don’t mind answering a few questions, do you? Only you find out later that they were lying and were really trying to get incriminating information from you. Then, while you’re being questioned, maybe you misremember something or the police ask a bad question and they get confused (see this video for a more exhaustive explanation of why even innocent people should never talk to the police). Do you want to take that risk?