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You get a knock on your door and there’s a detective there asking if you’ll come down to the station to talk with them. “It’s no big deal,” the detective says, “You aren’t in any trouble. We’re just trying to get some more information, and we think you can help.”

Being a good citizen, you think, “Sure. Why not?” After all, the investigator told you that you weren’t a suspect. Even if you were a suspect, you’re pretty sure that it would only take a few minutes to clear up any confusion and get on with your life.

Don’t believe it. Here’s why you don’t even want to consider taking this action without speaking to an attorney about the situation first:

  1. The police can lie to you. An investigator can say just about whatever they want to get you to start talking — including outright lies. Their word that you aren’t a suspect isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
  2. Your right against self-incrimination isn’t as broad as you probably think. You don’t have to be reminded of your rights and offered an attorney unless you’re both in police custody and under interrogation. That means that if the police can get you talking during that “friendly” conversation and you say anything incriminating, they can use it.
  3. Innocent people go to jail all the time. Hundreds of wholly innocent people have even ended up on death row — and there are likely untold thousands with wrongful convictions.

No matter what the situation, no matter how innocent of any criminal activity you may be, it’s time to be smart. When confronted with this kind of situation is to assert your right to talk to an attorney before you talk to the police.