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Why you need to remember your right to remain silent

A run-in with the police is almost never a pleasant experience. Whether you are the one being arrested, or police just want to ask you a few questions, speaking with police can make most people nervous. This is especially true for young adults like Penn State students, many of whom have never had to deal with the police before.

Maybe you were at a party that was broken up by the police, you were pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, or police want to talk to you about illegal prescription drugs being sold on campus. In any case, you should always remember that you have the right to remain silent, and you do not have to answer any questions beyond your name and showing your id.

Here is why that right is so important:

  • You cannot talk your way out of anything:Even if you know that you did nothing wrong, talking is still not in your best interest. Often, police have already made up their minds about whether to arrest you. The more you talk, the more you raise the possibility to giving them evidence.
  • Police know the law better than you do:If you talk to the police, you could accidentally admit to doing something that you did not even know was against the law.
  • Police know how to get information out of you:Police are skilled at interviewing suspects. They know how to ask leading questions to get the information they want.
  • You may misspeak:If you are nervous and your adrenaline is racing, you could misremember crucial details. If you change your story later, you will damage your credibility.
  • You don't know what others have already said:Police may have already interviewed other people who pointed a finger at you. You could again look like a liar to police if your account differs.

Many college students suffer from the illusion that they are invincible and that they can find a way out of any bad situation. However, when it comes to dealing with the police, it is better to say nothing at all.

Tell the police that you will not answer any questions without a criminal defense attorney present. Your attorney will be able to advise you on whether you should answer any questions and speak to police about how any cooperation could benefit you. This could mean the difference in maintaining a clean record and failing to graduate and finding work.

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