Law enforcement can lie, cheat and threaten to get you to give them information
We've all been taught since we were kids that the police are your friends. That's true most of the time, but not when they confront you about a possible crime. In order to help prosecutors make their case, police officers often try to intimidate people to get information that can be used against you at trial.
The United States Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement must read you your rights upon your arrest, but they don't have to do this until you are in custody. It's during this pre-arrest time they'll try to trick you or intimidate you into into spilling the beans or consenting to otherwise illegal searches. So, let's run through an example of what to do when confronted by the police by using a real-life scenario that happened to Derrick, one of my softball teammates who perhaps drank too much during one of our games.
As Derrick drove away from one of our games, a patrol officer immediately pulled him over suspecting he was driving drunk. After requesting Derrick's license and insurance, the office began asking whether Derrick had been drinking and how much. Derrick, who fortunately paid attention during the tutorial I provided my teammates about interactions with the police, Sat in stone silence not saying a word. He maintained his silence even after the officer demanded he open the trunk of his car. Derrick just politely refused.
Apparently, the officer felt he didn't have probable cause to arrest Derrick, so Derrick was allowed to drive away without arrest. Had Derrick not kept his mouth shut, he would have told the officer he'd consumed more than a six pack in the past hour. Had he consented to the search, the officer would have found marijuana (still illegal in Colorado at that time) in his trunk. His silence kept from facing DUI and possession charges. It's too bad my client Lisa didn't follow the same plan when she was pulled over. Instead of remaining silent, she literally told the patrol office "I've been drinking all night at a bar. I don't know how many I've had, but I probably shouldn't be driving." As you might imagine, her DUI trial did not go well given that admission.
But how do you know whether you're in custody? It's simple -- if you're not in handcuffs, you're not in custody. This means you don't have to say anything to the officer nor do you have to follow his/her instructions.
If you are in handcuffs, then you're in custody. Make sure the officer reads you your rights. And make sure the only thing that comes out of your mouth if you're in custody is "I want to talk to my lawyer."