I still get this question all the time –
“If I’m completely innocent, why shouldn’t I make a statement to the police?”
I’ve written before about calling a detective back and the risks there. But what about answering questions in person if you’re contacted during an investigation? Should you talk to the police if you “have nothing to hide”?
What if the police mishear you?
Even if the police aren’t out to get you… What about if they simply misheard you? Many police interviews are not recorded, so let’s say you talk to them about your situation. You say X, but they mistakenly hear Y. They write in their report that you said Y and everyone will take it as gospel. Months or years layer when you and your attorney see the police report with a quote from you saying Y, you will have a heck of a time proving you really said X. The officer, having moved on to many other cases in the intervening months, will simply rely on their report and firmly state that you did in fact say Y.
So… Even with no evil intent by the police, making a statement could hurt you.
What about a false ID?
What do you do with a false identification of you by a witness? A witness points you out and says you did it (or were involved). You deny it, since that’s the truth. Now there are two conflicting statements. the police and prosecution will assume you’re lying because you are covering for your involvement. They’ll say, “Why would the witness lie? They don’t have any stake in this.”
You answer truthfully, but the question was flawed
What if the police ask the wrong question, but you answer truthfully? Even that can still hurt you. For example, the officer asks you whether or not you were ar the 7-11 that got robbed during the evening hours of March 10th. You think about it and have an absolute alibi. Yes, you go to that 7-11 often, but you were at your buddy’s poker game on the night he was asking about, so you tell him you were nowhere near that 7-11 when it got robbed. BUT… Turns out that the robbery was actually the night of the 9th, but happened after midnight, so it was technically the 10th. You WERE at the 7-11 that night, but just got a soda and left. Turns out a witness saw your car leave and got your license plate. They call you a liar.
Ever see the movie “My Cousin Vinny”? Funny movie, but if you think about situation like that in real life, not funny at all. Just ask anyone wrongfully convicted.
Just a couple of examples why talking to the police isn’t a good idea, even if you are 100% innocent.