Do I have To Answer Police Questions in New Jersey?
The fast answer is NO!
Nothing good ever comes from answering questions from the police. In fact, many innocent people get convicted of crimes they never committed because they thought talking to the police would help.
What Are Your Rights?
You have the right to remain silent and are protected by the Constitution from unreasonable searches and seizures.
You have the RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT. Anything you say CAN and WILL be USED AGAINST YOU in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
The 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution PROTECTS CITIZENS AGAINST UNREASONABLE SEARCHES AND SEIZURES. For a search to be deemed constitutional, a warrant is required based upon probable cause unless the search falls within one of the few well delineated exceptions to the warrant requirement.
What Types of Police Encounters Do Not Need A Warrant?
- Field Inquiry: The police do NOT violate a citizen's rights by merely approaching a person on the street or in a public place, by asking the him if he is willing to answer some questions, by putting questions to him if the person is willing to listen, or by offering in evidence in a criminal prosecution his voluntary answers to such questions. HOWEVER!!! The person approached "need not answer any question put to him; indeed, he may decline to listen to the questions at all and may go on his way."
- Investigatory Stop, Terry Stop or Stop and Frisk: A police officer is allowed to conduct a pat-down search of a person when the police officer can "point to specific articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion." The court has recognized a narrow authority to permit a reasonable search for weapons for the protection of the police officer, where he has reason to believe that his is dealing with an armed and dangerous individual. The purpose of this search is NOT to discover evidence of a crime, but to allow the officer to pursue his investigation without fear of violence. The search MUST BE confined in scope to an intrusion reasonably designed to discover guns, knives, clubs, or other hidden instruments for the assault of the police officer.
What If The Police Want to Question Me At The Station?
What about a situation where you are not out in a public place. Instead, an officer calls you and states that they would like you to come down to the station and talk with them. What do you do? YOU SAY NO! Nothing good comes from talking to the police.
Imagine this scenario:
Imagine this scenario:
You are in your mid-twenties. The police call and say that they would like to talk to you about a robbery that happened. You think, "I didn't do anything wrong. Why do they want to talk to me?" So, you agree to go down to the station. At this point, you have NOT been charged with any crime. The police say, "there was a robbery that happened up the street from you. Do you know anything about that? You say that you heard a robbery happened. The police say, "we were told you were there." (In reality, the police were told by the actual guilty party that the mid-twenties guy was there, but had nothing to do with the robbery). You start talking about why you were there. The police do not use any foul language. They do not raise their voice. They do not slam on the table and yell "tell me the truth." Instead, they have a nice, polite conversation with you. By the end of the conversation, you have now admitted that you were there, you watched the crime happen and you were basically the "look out" for the guy actually committing the robbery. You are now charged with 3 felonies, facing 10 years in jail, and have confessed to the crime on video. Yes, on video because interrogations are videotaped!
WHAT SHOULD YOU HAVE DONE? Well, you should have told the police NO. I do not want to come down to the station and talk. If the mid-twenties guy followed this advice, his life would have continued. He would not be facing criminal charges. He would not be facing jail. He would not have confessed to a crime he may or may not have committed. Why you ask? Because the police had nothing on him to start with. All the police knew was that he was present when the robbery happened. The actual person who committed the robbery told the police that the mid-twenties guy wasn't involved. The police had no evidence. They had no witnesses. They had no statements. However, by going to the police and giving them a statement and a confession, you have now helped the police and sealed your future in jail.
If I Do Not Need To Talk To The Police, Why Do So Many People Do It?
The answer is because we fell we have to. From a young age, children are taught to respect the police as authority. Children are not taught to distrust the police. They are not taught to keep their mouth shut around the police. As we get older, we carry those lessons with us. When the police come knocking, you feel compelled to answer the questions or go to the station. Even when you just simply listen to the question, your body gives away the answer.
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, "No person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO TALK TO THE POLICE. You do not need to provide the police with information that will help them charge you with a crime and later have you convicted in a criminal court.
Things to Keep In Mind
- Everything you say can and will be used against you.
- If you said something good that will help you, the police will likely not testify to that.
- If you said something bad that will hurt you, the police will remember it and testify to it.
- No matter how good you are with words, you cannot talk your way out of being arrested.
- If you are guilty, let the police do their job without your help.
- You admitting you are guilty will only make things worse for you.
- DO NOT EVER confess to a crime just because you are tired of being questioned and want to leave the station.
- Little things that you say to the police can be taken out of context and highlighted by the police to make you look guilty and build a case against you.
- The police are trained at getting a confession out of a person. You are not trained in talking to the police.
- Your body language and eyes tell a story. Do not let the police know your story.