The very short answer to this question is, very few circumstances. What I see happening with criminal defendants over the course of the last twenty-five years of practicing criminal defense in LA is that they try to explain themselves to the police and what they don't realize is the police are not there to hear their explanation and try to help them deal with their case. The police are there to catch somebody for a crime. As the late, great Justice Thurgood Marshall said, the police are in the competitive business of ferreting out crime. So, the police are allowed to lie to people and they're allowed to use deceptive practices in trying to get criminal defendants to make admissions that can later be used against them in a criminal case.
I've also seen the police – when people try to explain themselves – twist what they say around, take it out of context, and basically do whatever they can to make that statement work for them in the process of trying to prosecute the person in a criminal case. So, if I was a criminal defendant in Los Angeles and I was being investigated for a crime, or even a crime that had already been filed against me, I would never talk to the police. The circumstances where you might consider talking to the police, first and foremost would be with your attorney.
So, you have to have an attorney with you anytime that you're a potential target of a criminal investigation in my opinion in Los Angeles County. I very rarely have been situations where not have an attorney somehow helps a potential target in a criminal investigation – either at the state or federal level. The next thing is, you need to take your attorney's advice. If your attorney tells you it's not a good idea to make a statement, then your attorney is right. You've hired your attorney, you should trust your attorney. If your attorney has been provided with all of the relevant facts related to your case and they tell you it's not a good idea to make a statement, then you should heed their advice.
Now, there are certain circumstances where I have had my clients go in and make a statement and these circumstances are fact-dependent. In other words, we have to look at the circumstances of the case before making a decision to go and talk to the police or prosecutors. Sometimes the police have the wrong person. Clear and simple, it doesn't matter the individual says, we're going to be able to show them they've got the wrong person. Under that circumstance, with your attorney present with you, I have had occasion to bring my client in, explain everything, answer their questions and also tell them some things. I'll tell them to say some things myself, and this has been an effective tool in saving my client the time, money, embarrassment and pressure, by showing them some things that they didn't know, and on many occasions, this has caused them to either drop the case or not even file it in the first place.
Now, what type of a case do we do that in? What type of a case do you talk to the police in? Again, it depends on the circumstances. Once the police or prosecutors start asking you questions and they hit you with some stuff that can incriminate you, it's too late at that point to call for your attorney. You can still do it, but it just simply makes you look bad, and sometimes, depending on the circumstances can be used against you in a criminal case in Los Angeles.
So, the answer to as far as when you should talk to the police related to a criminal matter is, not very often, and only under the dictates of your attorney, and your attorney's guidance and your attorney's presence during the questioning, and obviously you're also going to want to have a thorough conversation with your attorney because your attorney can anticipate some questions the police might ask you relative to a criminal investigation in Los Angeles, and you can talk about it and make sure the questions are answered truthfully, but in the right way so as not to say or do anything to put you in a compromising position or that can later be used against you in a criminal prosecution in Los Angeles.