The Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer is many things: frustrating, infuriating, divisive, cautionary, speculative, and perhaps most importantly, instructive. We can all learn an invaluable lesson from our time spent watching it – talking to the police without a lawyer rarely, if ever, helps. I would venture to say, having practiced criminal defense for many years, that it never helps.
The most common advice I give to a client who is facing a criminal charge or being investigated for a criminal charge is: Do Not Talk To The Police Without Me or Another Criminal Lawyer In the Room. Just don’t. This is non-negotiable. There are people across the State of Texas and the United States sitting in prison cells because they disregarded this advice.
Think of it this way – what motivations do the police have? They want to investigate the crime and make an arrest. That’s their job – to close the case. The prosecutor wants to gather all the evidence obtained by the police and represent the State’s interest in enforcing the laws. Guess what they are not motivated by? Helping you in any way. Make no mistake – the police do not have your best interests in mind if they are investigating you for a crime. Your lawyer, however, is looking out for you. No lawyer worth their salt would ever permit a client to speak to the police without them being present.
If you or someone you love is being investigated by the police and they ask to meet “to get their side of the story”, politely request an attorney be present during any and all questioning. If they say you don’t need one, you do. Be polite, but firm – no questions, at all, period, unless a lawyer is there. So, if you ever have to ask yourself, “Should I speak to the police and give my side of the story?” the answer is a resounding “Don’t!” Repeat after me: “I will not answer any questions without a lawyer. I want to talk to a lawyer.” At this point, they should immediately shut down the interview and allow you to obtain a lawyer of your choice.