What to do when the police . . .



(and an oral statement is just as damaging as one written down)

(adapted from Waring R. Fincke's site)

This is what I advise my clients to say when confronted by a law enforcement officer

"Officer, please understand I want to cooperate but I will not talk with you until I consult with my attorney. I also refuse to consent to any search of these premises or any other premises under my control, or in which I have a possessory, proprietary, or privacy interest, including my car, my body, or effects. I hereby demand to immediately be allowed the reasonable opportunity to obtain the advice of my attorney by telephone.

I desire to exercise all my rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the State of Wisconsin, to be free from your interference with my person or affairs.

If you attempt to question me, I want my lawyer present. I refuse to participate in any line-up or to perform any physical acts, or to speak or display my person or property at your direction, without first conferring with my lawyer.

If I am under arrest, I wish to invoke and exercise my Miranda rights. If you ignore my exercise of these rights and attempt to procure a waiver, I want to confer with my lawyer prior to any conversations with you.

If I am to be taken into custody, removed from my present location, or separated from my property, I request a reasonable opportunity to make arrangements to secure my own property. I do not consent to any impoundment or inventory of my property. I do, hereby, waive any claim of liability for loss, theft or damage against you, your superiors, or any other authority, and agree to hold all harmless therefrom, if I am afforded the reasonable opportunity to arrange for the safekeeping of my own property. If this reasonable opportunity is denied or is unavailable, I demand that only such intrusion occur as is minimally necessary to secure such property, hereby waiving any claim of liability for your failure to scrutinize the property or its contents prior to it being secured.

If I am not under arrest, I want to leave. If I am free to leave, please tell me immediately so that I may go about my business."

Short form in case you can't remember this . . . "I want to have my lawyer present. I refuse to talk with anyone without my lawyer present. I do not agree to a search of me or any of my belongings or items in my care. I will do as you tell me to do but want you to put your instructions in writing to me so that I can be sure I understand them and so that I will remember what you told me at a later time. Even if you tell me to discuss this with you, though, I want my lawyer present and won't talk with you until and unless my lawyer is present. If I am not under arrest, I want to leave. If I am free to leave, please tell me immediately so that I may go about my business."

If you don't have a lawyer on retainer, and are not allowed to make a phone call, ask to speak to the public defender.

If you are asked to sign anything, first read it! On anything you sign - even if it is a "receipt" - write the following. "I want to speak with my lawyer and do not want to talk to anyone without my lawyer present. His/her name is _________. His telephone number is _________. I request that I be allowed to contact my lawyer now. If I am not allowed to do this, I request that you contact my lawyer for me, now." If you don't have a lawyer, write "I want to have a lawyer with me during any questioning or search. I may not be able to afford to hire my own attorney and request the services of the State Public Defender."

You may want to print this out and keep it. Keep one copy in your wallet. Keep another in your glove compartment and yet a third near the front door to your house!

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