The Only Winning Move is Not to Play

Cop Games

I was watching a video yesterday. The officers asked a guy to come down and make a statement. When they started asking him questions, he asked for an attorney. He has to ask for an attorney three times before the cops stop asking him questions. He did great. The only thing I would have done differently if I were in his situation is not to go down to the police station in the first place. It reminded me of the movie War Games. In War Games, a computer learns that in nuclear war, there is no winning move. The only winning move is not to play. Answering a cop’s questions is the same. Any admission that you make, they will hold against you. Any denial that you make, they’ll assume it’s a lie. Your best option is not to answer his questions, but how?

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

You probably know that the best thing you can do is not answer a cop’s questions. There are a few reasons for this, but basically it comes down to the officer having the knowledge and the power. In a DWI investigation, an officer may be asking you where you are going, where you’re coming from, and whether you’ve had anything to drink. What you probably don’t know is that he already suspects you of drinking and he’s trying to get you to confirm his suspicion by admitting to coming from a bar and drinking there. He may also be setting you up to deny drinking anything even though he’s smells alcohol coming from your breath. While you’re answering questions, he’s also listening to see if you slur your words at all, if he can smell alcohol coming from you, if you’re answering questions quickly and accurately or if you’re a little slow with your answers.

Another situation where an officer may want to ask you questions is when you’re suspected of committing a crime and an officer has already spoken to someone accusing you of breaking the law. This could be at the scene or they could call you in to make a statement at the police station. This is another lose-lose situation. Officers can lie to you to try and get you to make an admission, but any lie you tell they will hold against you. They’ve already spoken with someone who is accusing you of breaking the law. Even if you deny whatever you’re being accused of, they’ll use your statements against you. They may get you to confirm that you were there or some of the other less important details. Every part of the story that you confirm makes their story more believable. 

How to Refuse to Answer Questions

Not answering questions poses its own problems. Your main goal must be to make it harder for the state to get a conviction against you if the officer decides to arrest you. Second to that is trying to avoid being arrested in the first place. There’s not much you can do to stop an officer from arresting you. They will often try to give you the impression that answering their questions is going to make things easier on you. This is a lie. There are two reasons an officer will ask you questions. One is they think that you committed a crime, but they don’t have enough information to arrest you. They’re asking you questions to try to get enough information so that they can arrest you. The second is that they already have enough information to arrest you, they’re just trying to get an even stronger case against you.

You have the right to remain silent and you have the right to have an attorney present when being questioned. If an officer asks you questions, you should tell the officer, “I’m exercising my right to remain silent and I want to speak with an attorney.” This should do two things. The officer should stop asking you questions. If he has probable cause to believe that you committed a crime he’ll arrest you, but he was going to do this anyway. If you are arrested, any statements that you make before or after the arrest can be used against you. A statement that you are exercising your Constitutional rights cannot be used against you. That means that if your case goes to trial, the jury won’t see you saying you’re going to remain silent. The video will be edited to keep that and everything afterwards out.

What to Do

From a practical standpoint, if you were pulled over for speeding, you haven’t had anything to drink, it’s not 2AM on a Saturday night, there’s no smell of marijuana, or anything else, then I think it’s fine to answer an officer’s normal questions to try and avoid a ticket. If any of those other things are going on or if you think the officer may suspect you of something more than a simple traffic violation, don’t answer any of his questions. Give him your driver’s license and insurance and when he starts asking questions, tell him you’re exercising your right to remain silent, request to speak with an attorney, and the remain silent.

If you are arrested for a crime in San Antonio or if you have any questions about what to do if an officer wants to ask you questions, feel free to call us or schedule a free consultation.


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Sean Henricksen

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