Something many people are confused about is: when a police officer shows up at your house to ask you questions, what should you say? Here’s what I tell people: never speak to the cops. There are very limited exceptions to that rule, but in general, if the cops are questioning you and you weren’t the person who called them, or even if you were the person who called them, be careful.
First of all, don’t call the police unless your life is in danger. In reality, especially with domestic violence, a lot of times, people will call the police, and someone will get arrested. And I get calls all the time where people will say, “I just wanted my husband to stop yelling at me, so I called the police, and now he’s been arrested. Please help me.”
Obviously, if you’re in actual danger, do call the police, of course. But in general, people should really try to keep the cops out of their private lives. And if you do end up with the cops in your private life, it’s not going to go well for you.
Here’s an example: the police are sitting there doing their job, waiting for a call to come in. They get calls all night long; now it’s 10:00 pm, or 11:00 pm, and you and your husband have been drinking. And it escalates, and then you call the police. They show up at your house, and now you’re talking to them and saying, “Whoa, wait, I don’t want him arrested. I just wanted him to stop!” And they tell you that it turns out what you wanted your husband to stop doing was, in fact, a crime as defined by the Colorado Revised Statutes. And because Colorado is a mandatory arrest state, your boy is now going to jail.
And in that scenario, typically, one person involved often tells the police the story from their perspective, and the other person clams up. And the cops don’t have the full story when they’re making decisions on who to arrest.
Here’s why: very rarely are you going to be able to change a police officer’s mind, and you certainly don’t know the law well enough to be able to dance around, explaining your story without stepping into a crime that you didn’t know you committed. So the police are trying to implicate you in a crime just by the nature of their investigation of a potential crime, and they’re asking questions that have potentially incriminating responses that you don’t know about.
So when you tell the police, “I didn’t hit her, I just threw her cell phone,” what you don’t know is that you’ve just admitted to the police that you committed damage to property, criminal mischief (or injury to property in a municipal court case), in addition to a class one misdemeanor of obstruction of a telephone device. (Which is a big deal because the last thing courts want is people who are trying to call 911 having their phone taken and smashed).
So, you were trying to talk yourself out of assault charges, and you accidentally talked yourself into a different domestic violence charge, and you’ve confessed to it in front of law enforcement. The hard part about me telling people not to talk to the police—why it’s SO hard to actually follow in the moment… is when you choose not to speak to the cops, you are essentially allowing yourself to get arrested.
But the difference is this: do you want to be arrested without having said anything stupid, or do you want to be arrested where you’ve confessed to committing crimes?
With all of this, you have to remember: if the police are talking to you, you’re already in a very precarious situation. So it’s best to be quiet and stop digging yourself further into a hole.
Just don’t talk to the police.
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Mr. Krizman is a criminal defense attorney in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in providing relentless domestic violence, DUI, and drug crimes. He is a former public defender who has also worked for a district attorney and is licensed in the State of Colorado, and the United States Federal Court, District of Colorado. Mr. Krizman is a member of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, Colorado Bar Association, Denver Bar Association, and Arapahoe County Bar Association. A Colorado native, he has a law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and a bachelor’s degree in Government and World Affairs from the University of Tampa. Contact him today at 720.819.7317.