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Common Mistakes People Make When Encountering Law Enforcement

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Jun 17, 2020

What are some of the most common mistakes that you see people make when it comes to encounters with law enforcement in Los Angeles County?

One of the most common mistakes that people make when it comes to encounters with law enforcement is when they try to talk their way out of the situation they are in, or thinking that they're smarter than the police, which leads them to making statements and answering questions.

They don't realize that police encounter people armed with information all of the time. And so, they think they're going to talk their way out of the circumstance. But, when the police start asking questions, those questions can them lead into saying something incriminating.

People often give the police a free crack at them, and, a lot of times, what can happen is they can mischaracterize what they say. If they don't tape record the incident, the police can say that you said certain things or take something out of context. The bottom line is that it's never a good idea to talk to the police.

If you're being investigated or there's a case against you, the best thing to do is to hire an attorney. The attorney can deal with everything. An attorney who knows what they're doing can act as a very effective buffer between you and the police.

The conversation between the attorney and the police is not evidence, and your attorney knows what they're doing. They're not going to put themselves in a position where they're going to end up saying something that incriminates you.

Again, don't speak to the police. Let your attorney do the talking for you. Don't think that you can outsmart the police because even the dumbest police officer can get lucky sometimes, especially if they have information that you don't know they have prior to someone getting arrested and charged with a crime.

Do people generally find out that they're under investigation by Los Angeles law enforcement in the first place?

There are various ways people find out they are being investigated by the police in Los Angeles. One way might be when the police goes looking for them to talk to them. Another way might be when the police goes to their work or home to try to talk to some of their friends.

Or, they just get word on the street that the police are investigating and talking to them. Sometimes, they'll go to their business, show their business card, and start asking people questions.

Sometimes, if it's a one on one situation, a person might be triggered to go to the police if something happened between them, or maybe the person threatens to go to the police. There is a host of different ways that someone can find out that they're under investigation.

Common Mistakes People Make When Encountering Law Enforcement

One way I see all of the time is when the police send a letter in the mail. They'll tell the person that they want to talk to them, or leave a message on their voicemail saying that they want to talk to them. There's a myriad of ways in which someone can realize that they are under a criminal investigation.

At that point, they should hire an attorney, be honest with the attorney, and give the attorney all of the information they need to properly defend the client. Leaving out certain information does not help anyone.

If the attorney doesn't know about certain information, they don't have the full picture, and that can sometimes come back to haunt the defendant, not the attorney. The attorney is made to look foolish because he didn't get and give all of the information.

The defendant padded the account of what happened. All that's going to do is come back to bite you. If your attorney is unprepared, if your attorney doesn't have the proper information because you didn't give it to them, you're just doing yourself a disservice.

Is it a good idea to meet with law enforcement with an attorney and cooperate to provide them with any information during investigation?

Depending on the circumstances of the case, meeting with law enforcement and your attorney to cooperate during the investigation could be a good idea. However, that's why you meet with your attorney first.

You have to give your attorney all of the information first. You have to be honest with your attorney. Then, you and your attorney can talk it out and decide whether it's right to meet with the police. I would say that 95% of the time it's never a good idea to meet with the police because all they're trying to do is get information to prosecute you. So, why would you help them in that process?

On the flip side, if it's a situation where you didn't do anything wrong, and they have a misunderstanding about what happened, that might be a good time to meet with the police. Of course, with your attorney. Your attorney has to be the one to help you make that decision. They know what to expect.

For instance, I've been doing this for 26 years. I've seen meetings, and I've heard of meetings going awry when people meet with the police. Therefore, using the attorney's experience is critical when it comes to making a decision like this.

Sometimes the government has the information they need against you to be able to charge you with a crime, or maybe they have a misconception about your level of involvement in certain circumstances.

That might be a good time to meet with law enforcement and give them information so they can see the full picture. But, most of the time, it's not a good idea. There are exceptions, but your attorney is going to help you make that decision.

If you voluntarily speak to the police during a criminal investigation, they can definitely use what you say against you. It's called an admission, and it gets around the hearsay rule.

The prosecutors can try to bring that in against you in court. Normally, they wouldn't be able to do that, but if it's the defendant in the case, and they give the police information, then they can do that.

Having tried over 250 trials in a 26-year career, the best evidence the prosecutors have is the defendant's own statement that they gave to the police. Therefore, it's never a good idea to give a statement to the police.

Although there are some exceptions to that rule, you will want to discuss it with your attorney. Let your attorney help you make that type of decision. That way, you will have everything vetted with your attorney. And with your attorney present, it is more certain that you'll be treated right without nothing being taken out of context while talking to the police.

I've had clients who were given their Miranda rights, and they end up making a statement that could be used against them. I have also had clients who were given their Miranda rights, and somehow the police twisted their arm into making a statement.

That's a battle for me to try to keep that statement out. It's not easy to keep it out because there are all kinds of holes in the Miranda rights where the police and prosecutors use loopholes to get the statement in.

Most of the time, the judges are letting someone's statement in, and that's why saying nothing puts you in a better position where you can make the argument that you didn't say anything. You're certainly well within your rights not to make any statements to law enforcement.

What kind of training does Los Angeles police officers get when it comes to interrogating people?

It's common for the police to get full training related to taking statements. That's probably a basic course that's part of the police academy. If it's a federal case with the FBI, the detectives get further advance training in questioning people.

If the police are coming to talk to you, that usually means you're the target of a crime, and their questions are going to be slanted towards trying to get you to say something incriminating.

Therefore, never talk to the police without your attorney present. When it comes to situations where the police are trying to take a statement from you, it's crucial that you don't make the fatal mistake of giving them the information they need to prosecute you.

Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.