Maybe you were hauled into the police station in handcuffs, clearly under suspicion of something serious. Maybe you were simply asked to come down to the station for “a friendly chat.” Either way, you don’t like the implications being made or the way the questions seem to be turning.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives you an absolute right against self-incrimination, and that means that you can refuse to answer any police questions beyond providing them with your identifying information.
Yet, a surprising number of people will actually respond to an officer’s questions – often to their detriment. Many of them do so because they’re innocent and they’re afraid that they’ll “look guilty” if they don’t cooperate.
If you’re innocent, why shouldn’t you talk?
Here’s the problem: If the police are asking you probing questions, they have probably already decided that you’re guilty of something – and your refusal to answer the questions isn’t going to make you look any more guilty in their eyes.
Talking to the police, however, can do you some serious damage. If the police have already made up their minds about the case, anything you say may be interpreted through the filter of their preconceived notions, which means it’s open to misinterpretation. Plus, the pressure of the situation makes it easy for ordinary people to get confused and contradict themselves – which can later be used to make them seem guilty, even if they aren’t.
Finally, who cares what the police think? What really matters is what they can prove. Your Constitutional rights forbid the prosecution from using the fact that you exercised your right to remain silent against you in any way, so let them think whatever they want. You only need to be thinking about your future.
Being questioned by the police is scary. Being accused of a crime is worse. In both cases, make sure that you invoke your rights and fully explore your defense options.