1. You have the right to remain silent.
Twenty years ago, in fairly regular conversations with friends, I routinely expressed my thoughts about being interrogated by the police. This topic of discussion was up there with hypothetical conversations about what I would do if I won the lottery, or if I could choose to go back in time in my own life, when would I return and why? First, I would give each of my family members a cool million and then disappear from their lives for reasons that I have yet to be able to put into words. Second, I would go back to thirteen, just before puberty, where I could open up the deeply buried wall locker in my brain that carries my sense of insecurities, throw out all the candy and television, and replace it with a set of sit-ups, crunches, or push ups, so that I could look at myself in the mirror without a sense of loss and then perhaps to tell the ladies how I really felt when the moments presented themselves. And third, why not talk to the police. After all, I haven’t anything to hide, right?
My wife says these are conversations that only men have.
2. Anything you say may be used against you in court.
When I was six, my sister caught me sneaking into my father’s den to look at his Playboy magazines. They were in the bottom drawer of his desk. A ruler, manila envelope, and a copy of the more benign Panama Spillway magazine rested on top of them, hiding them from view. I looked at them every chance I got. But when I failed to do something requested by my sister, she quickly ran to my father to tell him my dirty secret. I stared him in the face, called her a liar, and started crying.
“It’s okay, bud,” he said as he hugged me. “It’s only natural to want to see those.” But I continued denying it. I was six, and I was a liar. My trust in my sisters waned and after a few more years and a few more broken promises, I learned to keep my mouth shut. It didn’t even matter if I wasn’t doing anything wrong; in the world of allegation, perception is reality. It’s all a matter of context.
3. You have a right to talk to a lawyer before and during questioning without charge.
When facing a true allegation, people experience a sense of fight or flight. If you did it, admit it. If you can’t do the time, run. I am a type-A personality, and with that dominating sensibility comes a little ego. Just a little. So, while it is unlikely to ever happen, I believed that if I were ever brought in for questioning and read my Miranda Warnings, my answers would be clear; of course I don’t need a lawyer. Only criminals need lawyers.
4. If you cannot afford a lawyer and want one, one can be provided for you before questioning without charge.
As I get older, I am still the good guy in the movie of my life, but there is a twinge of darkness. Given the right circumstance, say the rape or murder of a loved one, I could conceivably commit some crime of vengeance that, while justified in my own eyes, might not be seen as such by members of law enforcement. So, to that end, if I ever found myself as the subject of interrogation, I’d amend my previous conviction and state that if I refused to talk to the police, then that would mean I was guilty. I would still talk if I was not connected to any crime, but it is stupid to think that I would be able to compete with my own lies. If innocent, cooperation. If guilty, a lawyer couldn’t hurt.
5. Has anyone threatened you or promised you anything to get you to talk to me?
Now here I am today, a Major Case detective, having over a thousand interviews under my belt in Sex Crimes and Homicide combined, and my mind is changed once again. In my own experience as an interrogator—a word defense attorneys are eager to use when referring to me—I’ve discovered that when talking to the police about a crime, any suspect would be ill-advised not to get a lawyer. Context is king. What was I doing with that girl in the first place? Why is she accusing me of such a heinous crime? What possible reason would a detective have to help me out? After all, he doesn’t know me from Adam’s house cat.
6. Do you understand what I just read to you?