I'm sure there is an exception to this rule - but I can't think of it right now, so my simple answer is: "No, you should have a lawyer with you when you talk to the police."
Now, in a specific question that came to me via email, I was asked if a person should talk to the police a second time, 15 years after the initial interview, about an alleged improper touching of a minor person who was 13 years old at the time of the incident.
I think a person in this position would be well advised to seek the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in these types of cases, such as Child Molestation.
The question raises a number of important issues that are often misunderstood by the public and often inaccurately portrayed on television, where most of the country gets it's legal advice.
First, the statute of limitations, (which is the period of time that law enforcement has to bring charges in Missouri, which is different in child victim cases). Generally speaking it is 10 years from the time the child reaches 18 years old.
While the evidence of a recollection from about 15 years ago might be very questionable in front of a jury today, an admission by the person accused made today would be very strong.
Often times people think the police are required to be truthful in dealing with people they are questioning. They are not. I hear stories of people being told by the police that if they will just say x then all that will happen to them is y. GENERALLY POLICE OFFICERS AND DETECTIVES DO NOT HAVE THIS AUTHORITY.
If I have a client that has been asked to speak to the police and I think it is to their advantage, then I speak to the police AND the prosecutor on their behalf and then I will go with them to talk to the police after I have a prosecutor's commitment, in writing.
Again, I can't stress this enough: The GENERAL RULE is do not speak to the police - Instead - invoke your right to a lawyer. Ask to speak to your lawyer by name, - then don't forget a very important part - THEN keep your mouth shut till your lawyer arrives.
DO NOT TIE THE HANDS OF YOUR CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WITH A STORY YOU MAY NOT ACCURATELY REMEMBER UNDER THE PRESSURE OF AN INTERROGATION.
Also, generally the alleged perpetrator (or criminal defendant) is the very last person to be talked to by the police. That is to say after they already have all the evidence they need to make the case and they are just looking for icing on the cake in the form of a confession, or they have a very weak case and without a confession no real case at all!! OR EVEN WORSE, in a rather weak case, to get the perpetrator to lock themselves into a story which will later tie the hands of defendant's criminal defense lawyer seeking to introduce enough reasonable doubt into the case to gain an acquittal.
My best guess is, this particular case I was asked about is a weak, cold case where the statute of limitations is rapidly running out and law enforcement is hoping that the passage of time will give the accused (or criminal defendant) a sense of false security, (after all, everyone knows from TV that they can't be charged with a crime this late in the game, all their friends, the ones who got their legal training watching re-runs of Law and Order, not criminal defense lawyers, have assured them it's OK!) and in this sense of false security, the criminal defendant will make an otherwise weak case strong.
Generally, absent a written promise from a prosecutor for a specific result, worked out by an experienced criminal defense lawyer, talking to the police is not a good idea; even if you are innocent and especially if you are not!!
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