If you’re like many people across Illinois – especially during our current social climate – you’re wondering if you can refuse to talk to a cop when you’re pulled over, stopped on the street, or in your own home. While it’s never a great idea to share your whole life story with a police officer during a routine traffic stop, there are occasions in which you have to talk to the police.
Here’s what you need to know.
Can You Refuse to Talk to a Cop?
You have the right to remain silent – in fact, if you’re being arrested, there’s a good chance the police will tell you that themselves. (Of course, they’ll tell you that you have the right to remain silent and then proceed to ask you questions – and many people make the mistake of continuing to talk despite having the right not to.)
When police question you, you don’t have to answer questions about where you were, what you were doing, or what you have planned for the rest of your day. In fact, you only have to tell them your name and address (or give them your driver’s license or another form of ID).
It’s really important that you know this: No matter what the police tell you, they don’t have any power to impact what happens to you once you have a case entered into the legal system. Unfortunately, some police officers say things like, “The judge will go easy on you if you cooperate and tell us what happened.” The first problem with that is that the police have no way to predict what a judge will do; they themselves don’t even have all the facts when they arrest you – so there’s absolutely no telling what a judge who has actual evidence at his or her disposal will do. The second problem with that is there aren’t any “bonus points” you can earn by confessing to the police.
Your safest bet in all cases: Don’t say anything to police except, “I want to speak to my lawyer.” That’s true even if you’re completely innocent and have a genuine alibi. You shouldn’t talk to the police or give them any answers – even if you only intend to tell the truth, and even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
The police are trained to “get the bad guy,” and when they arrest you, they think you’re the bad guy – otherwise they wouldn’t be arresting you. That means they’ll do what they can (and unfortunately, say what they want) to get you to confess to a crime.
Can You Refuse to Talk to a Cop on the Street?
You can absolutely refuse to talk to a cop when you’re arrested, but can you refuse to talk to one on the street?
You don’t have to talk to the police when they stop you on the street and say something like “Where are you headed?” In fact, you can counter any police officer’s question with one of your own: “Am I being arrested?” If you’re not being arrested, you’re free to leave. Sometimes police will say, “No, you’re not being arrested. We just have a few questions for you.” No matter how nice the officer seems, it’s almost always in your best interest to keep to yourself. In fact, that can (and should) be your default: Don’t talk to police except to ask whether you’re being arrested or detained or to tell them that you’d like to speak to an attorney first.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer?
If you’re being arrested, or if you were recently arrested and accused of any crime, don’t talk to the police about what you know. Instead, use your right to remain silent and let your lawyer do the talking for you.
Call us at 847-920-4540 immediately. Don’t give up any information – even if you’re just letting the police know you’re innocent.