Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Attorney Sam’s Take: MA Rape, Robbery Or Assault Charges – When To Talk To Police

“Look, you seem like a good kid. Boston needs more people out there like you…productive citizens. I have no interest in jamming you up. Just tell me your side of things and I will talk to the District Attorney and see what we can work out.”

You would be surprised how comforting those words seem when coming from the police officer who has you in the little room at the local police station talking about that nasty-sounding murder that everyone is upset about. You may be even more surprised at how many people leap to those words as if from a burning building to tell their “side of things.”

The next time they see that “side”, it is often almost unrecognizable as it reflects from the pages of a police report. Yep, the prosecution went through anyway. Who knew?

As most daily readers of this blog know, there is no law that says you must talk to the police when they come to question you. Quite the contrary. You have a Constitutional right not to talk to them. You have a right to ask for an attorney to be present as well.

“Well, Sam, if I say I do not want to talk to them, or ask for an attorney, aren’t I basically confessing that I have something to hide?”

First of all…no. You are merely demonstrating that you are cautious. But, let’s assume you have an officer who does take that view of things. The chances are that the officer is there to interview you as part of his investigation because he has already come to the conclusion that you have done something wrong. This is generally law enforcement’s approach to get an incriminating statement to either use against you down the road, or pressure you to testify against someone else.

Let’s take a look at some examples.

The police answer a call that there has been an accident. They arrive at the scene and find you sitting a few feet from your automobile, which happens to be wrapped around a tree. One of the reasons you are sitting is that you get too dizzy when standing. No, you were not injured in the accident, but it could be related to those four drinks you had at the bar a short time ago.

The officer comes up to you, looks you up and down, and asks you if you have had anything to drink.

Do you really think he has not already reached an opinion on whether or not you are about to be arrested for operating under the influence of alcohol? Most often, the response of the soon-to-be-defendant is, “Well, I only had two drinks”. For some reason, the explanation always seems to be “two” drinks. Not one, not three. In any event, that statement shall be coming back to haunt the defendant as a confession…albeit a likely misleading one.

No, admitting “I had four drinks”, is not about to make things go any better.

Let’s take another example. You get a phone call from Detective Columbo that there has been a report that you sexually assaulted a young lady and he would like you to come down to the station and give your side of the story. You ask certain questions like “Who?” and “When?”, but you are simply told that all will be explained down at the station when you come down to “clear it up”.

What you do not realize is that these questions will be explained…as far as the police are concerned…by you. They will ask the questions, you will answer them.

It would be wonderful to think that law enforcement, during these invited conversations, entered the discussion with an open mind. The fact is, however, that they have usually already come to their conclusion of what the truth is and are merely looking to get an incriminating statement, or a statement that they can contradict at trial.

“So you are saying never to talk to the police.”

Actually…no. As with most human endeavors, no two cases are exactly the same. There are actually situations in which you can do yourself some good talking to the police. However, these are not the norm.

“Wonderful. So how am I supposed to know when it’s the general rule and when it is the exception?”

Well, you’re not. You can guess, of course, and risk a great deal because you have a hunch if you want to go it alone.

My suggestion is to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise and represent you. What I usually do is have my client take the position that, because there are allegations against him, he thought he should call his friend the attorney and that said friend kept jumping up and down like a crazy person screaming, “Don’t talk to anybody!” So, my client has no choice but to listen to the attorney. Believe it or not, this seldom surprises law enforcement.

I have them give my name and then I…well, I guess to go further into such strategy would be unwise because each case is different and, if you would like actual legal advice on your matter, you should contact me.

The bottom line is that to try to go it alone is foolish. Contact an experienced attorney to help you do, if nothing else, damage control.

If you do wish to consult me, please feel free to do so. Simply email me through our site or call me at (617) 206-1942.

Contact Information