Everyone has watched a movie or television show where the “bad guy” gets arrested. You’ve also heard a defence lawyer tell them in the next scene: “Don’t say anything!”
Even though our clients know this (because they’ve watched said movie, and because they’ve heard me say it to them at least 3 times during their phone call from the police station), too many still give statements to the police.
There are no shortage of reasons for this – from the stress and uncertainty of the situation; to the desire to get out of the situation as fast as possible. However, in the hopes of stopping you from being your own worst enemy if you ever find yourself arrested, here are my top 3 reasons for not giving a statement to police:
1. The police have a way of making you feel comfortable – maybe they are even being kind to you. They understand your situation and “just want to hear your side of the story”.
That kindness may very well be genuine – but the reality is, it doesn’t stop them from writing down or recording every word you say. Whether you are in front of the video camera, or being transported in the cruiser, police officers are trained to take notes of everything.
While some statements you say to police may be excluded later by a court, why take the chance? You never know what piece of information the police don’t have yet, that you’ve just given them.
2. Once the decision to charge you has been made, there are very few things you could say that will actually make the charges “go away” that day. This is especially true in domestic situations, as police have what is often referred to as a “mandatory charge policy”.
This means that there is likely nothing that you can say that will help the situation – in fact, you will likely make it worse for yourself.
The best thing to do is listen to your lawyer, not say anything to the police, and wait for the court proceedings for your chance to explain (or not – as is also your right).
3. No matter how you try to explain yourself, words can get twisted around. An accused who may very well be innocent in law may hurt their chances of success at trial if there is anything said to police that can be used against you. “I grabbed my husband’s arm”, for example, may be turned into an assault charge, even though the accused meant that she grabbed her husband’s arm so that he didn’t hit the wall he was about to walk into.
4. My best reason for staying silent is that it is your Charter-protected right. The drafters of the Charter (not to mention your lawyer, the police, the Crown and the Judge) all know that the burden is on the state (and by extension, the police) to prove your guilt. This means you are not required to prove your innocence. So why do their work for them?