That scary situation has happened. A police officer has stopped, or worse yet, has arrested you. He/She starts asking you questions. You must, at that point, make a serious decision. Should you answer the questions or exercise your constitutional right to silence? This article does not address which choice you should make. It does offer a crucial piece of advice. If you decide it’s in your best interest to answer the officer’s questions, you are well advised to be completely truthful. Don’t tell lies or half-truths. The odds are, the full truth will come out later. In that case, even if you are innocent, you will appear guilty.
Attorney Kennedy, in his 47-year career as a Defense Attorney, District Attorney, and as a Judge, has seen defendants who he thinks were innocent go through legal hell and even get convicted, just because they told half-truths or lies thinking that the truth would make them look guilty, embarrass themselves or others, or hurt someone else they care for.
If you don’t feel you can be completely truthful, then do not answer any questions from that point on until you have consulted with an attorney and have gotten the advice you need to have before deciding whether to answer any further questions.
As with every rule, the above rule does have some narrow exceptions. The most likely exception lies in cases where someone is stopped under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OWI). If you know you have not consumed more than two or three drinks and have not used illegal drugs, then you should not hesitate to answer questions and agree to take breath or blood tests. If you refuse to answer questions in those rare cases, you may appear guilty when you are not. Furthermore, a refusal to take a breath or blood test will cause your license to be revoked and will count the same as a prior conviction of OWI in the future with serious consequences including to your insurance status.
Caution: There are other rare exceptions and even exceptions to the above exceptions. For those interested, invite an experienced attorney to give a talk on this subject to a group to which you belong to.