Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. But when the stakes are high, like when you are being investigated for a drug crime, it is incredibly important that you avoid doing anything that could make your situation worse.
The police know a lot about criminal law, and they will use that to their advantage. So, if you get the vibe that the police are starting to investigate you for drugs (or anything else), be sure to follow the six “Don’ts” below. Following these tips could help you avoid serious and possibly life-long consequences.
1. Don’t Run Away If the Cops Approach You.
When a cop approaches you, the worst thing you can do is make a run for it. Why? Four main reasons:
- First, you could get yourself or someone else hurt, or even killed. That is especially true if you lead the police on a car chase. Remember, when you take flight, it immediately increases the odds that someone will do something impulsive or unexpected, and that’s when people get hurt.
- Second, if you make a run for it, the police can make an inference that you are guilty of a crime solely because you fled on foot, or in your car, when they approached you. Moreover, even if you outrun the cops, that won’t be the last you see of them. Running away will have the effect of increasing the police’s scrutiny of you because you ran the first time.
- Third, fleeing from, or eluding, the police is a crime itself. In Ohio, the base offense of eluding also known as failure to comply is a first-degree misdemeanor, which can become a felony under certain circumstances. Also, don’t run away on foot from the cops because that could be a potential obstructing official business charge in Ohio which a misdemeanor of the second degree. So, if the cops approach you, don’t run. It will only make things worse.
- Fourth, consciousness of guilt jury instruction.
2. Don’t Lie About Who You Are.
Just like running, lying to the police is also a crime, which could mean jail time. It is understandable that you might want to protect yourself when you don’t know why the cops are asking you questions. But, lying about your identity is too great a risk to take. The moral of the story here is – don’t lie to the police, ever. When the cops ask your name and address, tell them the truth. However, aside from telling the police who you are, you have a right not to answer any further questions. You should exercise that right.
3. Don’t Give Consent
The police are very crafty in getting people to do what the police want them to do. As we discussed in the previous section on consent searches, there are countless cases in which people will give the cops consent to search their bags without a warrant, even when the people know that they have drugs or other illegal substances in their bag.
Don’t be one of those people. So, when the cops ask for your consent to search something of yours without a warrant, simply and respectfully say “no.”
4. Don’t Answer Questions Without a Lawyer
As with asking for consent, the cops will want to get as much information – incriminating or otherwise – from you before you have a chance to realize what they are up to. Don’t take the bait. If the police approach you and start asking questions as part of an investigation, then you should say nothing. Simply ask for an attorney.
Beyond giving your identity (which is something you should do if the police ask), you do not have to answer any of their questions. You have the constitutional right to remain silent because it is true that anything you say could be used against you in court. You are not required to give a statement to the police during the investigation, nor are you required to provide an oral or written statement after an arrest.
So, if the cops start asking you questions, you should tell them that you would be happy to answer any of their questions only if and when your lawyer is present. Memorize this phrase: “Before I say or do anything, I want to speak to an attorney.”
5. Don’t Believe What the Police Tell You
Of the many tactics that the police use during a criminal investigation, one of them is to lie to you in order to obtain evidence. While that does not seem like a proper thing to do to someone, the U.S. Supreme Court has, in fact, given police officers the permission to use such a tactic.
The cops are notorious for separating two suspects and telling one suspect that the other has already ratted him out . . . even if that never happened! Similarly, the cops will falsely state to a suspect that they have forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony that implicates the suspect . . . but no such evidence actually exists. Yes, the police will lie so a suspect gives an oral or written statement.
The tactic is used so often that you would be wise to avoid trusting anything that the police tell you. If a police officer wants evidence, then he can ask you questions when your lawyer is sitting next you. Again, you want a lawyer with you before you say anything to the police, other than your name, date of birth, and your social security number.
Also, once your lawyer is with you and tells you not to answer questions or not to give a statement – follow that advice. That is because the police and prosecutors know that once you give a statement, you are locked in. If at some later time you give testimony that is not exactly what you said previously, or you add a detail that was not in the original statement, then the government will make sure that you are painted as someone who gives conflicting statements, as someone who is a liar.
The cops will also not think twice about using deception and tricks to lock you into a false confession. Many defendants spend years, sometimes decades, in prison because they falsely confessed to a crime based on a police officer’s lies. It often takes DNA evidence or the guilty person admitting to the crime before the innocent person is exonerated after giving a false confession.
Remember, the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to say nothing to the police. Once you have a lawyer on your side, then follow his or her advice. Remember, you can’t trust what the cops tell you. They can and will lie to you to get you to say what they want you to say.
6. Don’t Lose the Leverage You Have
The police will invariably want you to snitch on other suspects if you are involved in a police investigation. Indeed, the police will likely tell you that you will get favorable treatment if you snitch on someone. Again, don’t take the bait until you’ve spoken to a lawyer.
If you have information or evidence that might help the police, don’t give it up so easily. The cops might make lots of promises of favorable treatment, but they cannot guarantee that. A prosecutor makes decisions about cooperation agreements, not the police.
So, do not become an informant or otherwise give up evidence about others until you have spoken to an experienced defense attorney. If you are going to cooperate, then have your lawyer negotiate a favorable plea agreement or non-prosecution agreement first, before providing information.
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