If the police want to talk to you about a crime they think you committed, the first thing you should do is politely tell them that you would like to talk to an attorney first. Then, get their name and number and call an attorney.

Understand that police officers either will be recording your conversation or will be taking notes on your conversation. In our experience, police officers are hit and miss as to whether or not they take really good notes. They are trained, but they may not be all that considerate of recording everything you have to say. You cannot rely on them to be detail-oriented. If you say something to them, you’re having a lot of faith in their ability to write down very exact notes on what you say, and that doesn’t always happen. So what you should do is stop talking.

If a police officer calls you up to talk to you about a case, it’s because he or she already has information that you may have done something. If that’s true, that means that the police officer may already have enough information to arrest you. Or if not, he or she is hoping that you will say something so that they can arrest you.

It could be the most innocent thing that you say—even something that you say that you think will protect you can actually hurt you.

Here’s an example. Let’s say there’s an allegation that a defendant sexually assaulted a person at a bar. The police officer calls you and asks you questions about that allegation. Even admitting to something seemingly harmless, like saying that you were at the bar, could be used against you. Even admitting that you knew the person could be used against you—even if you deny everything else.

It is better to just say, “I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to an attorney,” and have conversations go through that attorney. It’s the best way to protect you. I’ve had situations where police officers had called clients, and I’m sure that if the clients had spoken, they would have said all kinds of things that would have hurt them. Luckily, the clients retained us, and as a result, we were able to avoid filing the charges.

The reason police officers are talking to people isn’t to help them out. The reason they’re talking to people is to get more information and evidence that can be used against them. That’s really the reason.

This is the sort of trap that I see all too many clients fall into. Don’t talk to police officers. Just don’t do it.