When should you talk to the police. Short answer: NEVER!

Justice Robert Jackson, Nuremberg Prosecutor, Supreme Court Justice:

"Any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to the police under any circumstances." Watts v. Indiana, 338 U.S. 49

Types of things the police might tell you to get you to talk to them:

  • "If you don't answer my questions, I'll have no choice but to arrest you. Do you want to go to jail?"  (They will arrest you either way.)
  • "You're not a suspect - just help us understand what happened here and then you can go."  (They will arrest you after you talk.)
  • "If you don't answer my questions, I'm going to charge you with resisting arrest." (They will arrest you either way)
  • "All of your friends have cooperated and we let them go home. You're the only one left." (They will arrest you either way.)
  • "You are just here voluntarily and we appreciate you helping us with this. You are free to leave at any time." (If you try to leave, they arrest you.)

I recently heard Professor James J. Duane talk about the perils of talking to the police. He was accompanied by a former police officer. This is some of what he had to say in my continuing education program.



Cops are sneaky and there are lots of ways they can trick you into talking. They are allowed, even trained, to lie to you. Here are some cons they'll pull:

  • Good Cop/ Bad Cop: Bad cop is aggressive and menacing, while good cop is nice, friendly, and familiar (usually good cop is the same race and gender as you). The idea is bad cop scares you so bad you are desperately looking for a friend. Good cop is that friend, until you are done talking.
  • The cops will tell you that your friends ratted on you so that you will snitch on them. Meanwhile, they tell your friends the same thing. If anyone breaks and talks, you all go down.
  • The cops will tell you that they have all the evidence they need to convict you and that if you "take responsibility" and confess the judge will be impressed by your honesty and go easy on you. What they really mean is: "we don't have enough evidence yet, please confess."
  • The cops may show you something and claim it is your fingerprints, or tell you they have your fingerprints.
  • The cops may tell you that they have you on video committing a crime. There may or may not be a video. It may or may not be someone who looks like you.

Even if the cop questioning you is completely honest, he/she is human, and hears what he or she expects to hear. Jail is a very isolating and intimidating place. It is really easy to believe what the cops tell you. Insist upon speaking with a lawyer before you answer any questions or sign anything.

This next video is about being stopped by the police.

Talking to the Police: What about your Miranda rights?

You have rights. The police are supposed to tell you some of them. Sometimes they will. If they don't it does not usually mean that you don't get charged or convicted; it means they didn't read you your rights. If they do read you your rights, take it seriously. Make them take it seriously. Ask for a lawyer. Refuse to answer questions. (Don't just remain quiet, actively say "I don't want to talk with you." or "I refuse to answer any questions.")

For another way of looking at this, see Stopped by the Police!

Magic Words - Magic Phrases When You Are Stopped by the Police

  1. Am I free to go?
  2. I do not consent to any searches.
  3. I want to exercise my right to remain silent. (Being silent is not enough!)
  4. I want a lawyer.

For more on this, see this web page.


False Confessions come from talking to the police!





Charles Kyle Kenyon - When Experience MattersScales of Justice - copyright 1995 - Madison Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer (attorney) Charles Kenyon

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Attorney at Law Scales of Justice - copyright 1995 - Madison Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer (attorney) Charles Kenyon
5555 Odana Road, Suite 211
Madison, WI  53719-1280

Telephone (608) 308-9645

Since 1979

Former (Elected) District Attorney
Former Assistant State Public Defender
Extensive jury trial experience in cases ranging from traffic to sexual assault / homicide
Thousands of criminal cases since 1979

Appeals in Wisconsin Court of Appeals and Supreme Court

J.D. University of Wisconsin Law School 1978 - winner of Abe Sigman prize
B.A. University of Wisconsin - Madison - Psychology - 1975
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Trainer / presenter / panelist for American Bar Association, National College of District Attorneys, Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin Public Defender
Founding Director - Children's Law Section - State Bar of Wisconsin
Past-President: Marinette County Bar Association, Door-Kewaunee Bar Association
Life Member: National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)
Member: Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL)
Member: National College for DUI Defense
Member: State Bar of Wisconsin, Dane County Bar Association
Admitted to practice: State of Wisconsin, Federal - Eastern District of Wisconsin, Western District of Wisconsin, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Certified to administer roadside Field Sobriety Tests in Wisconsin

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This page last revised: 15 Mar 2024 21:34:16 -0500 .  


Kinds of charges Kenyon has handled include:


  • First Degree Intentional Homicide (Murder)
  • Reckless Homicide
  • Homicide by Negligent Use of a Dangerous Weapon
  • Homicide by Negligent Use of an Automobile
  • Homicide by Drunk Driving
  • Attempts

Other injury to persons

  • Aggravated Battery
  • Substantial Battery
  • Battery - Domestic Violence
  • Armed Battery
  • Battery to a Peace Officer
  • Battery
  • Felony Battery
  • Reckless Endangerment
  • Injury by drunk driving
  • False Imprisonment
  • Felony Child Abuse

Theft and misappropriation

  • Theft
  • Forgery
  • Embezzlement
  • Retail Theft
  • Shoplifting
  • Auto Theft
  • Theft of Firearm
  • Theft by Contractor
  • Theft by Fraud
  • Theft of Cable Services
  • Securities Fraud
  • Extortion

Peace and Order

  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Disorderly Conduct - Domestic Abuse
  • Domestic Violence - Domestic Abuse
  • Restraining Orders
  • Strangulation or Suffocation
  • Lewd and Lascivious Behavior
  • Harassment
  • Improperly Taking the King's Deer (Hunting out of season or shining)
  • Other DNR Violations
  • Carrying a Concealed Weapon
  • Carrying a Weapon in a School
  • Hit and Run
  • Fleeing or Eluding an Officer
  • Disarming a Peace Officer
  • Resisting an Officer
  • Obstructing an Officer
  • Drunk Driving
  • Reckless Driving
  • Recklessly Endangering Safety
  • Speeding
  • Voter Fraud - Illegal Voting


Drunk Driving - OWI / DUI / DWI / BAC / PAC

Sexual Assault

  • First Degree Sexual Assault
  • Second Degree Sexual Assault
  • Third Degree Sexual Assault
  • Fourth Degree Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Assault to a Child
  • Sexual Assault by a Child
  • Incest
  • Date Rape
  • Sexual Predator (980) Commitments
  • Child Pornography
  • Continuing Sexual Assault of a Child


  • Robbery
  • Armed Robbery
  • Car Jacking

Burglary and Trespass

  • Armed Burglary
  • Burglary
  • Trespass to a Dwelling

Damage to Property

  • Arson
  • Criminal Damage to Property


  • Manufacture of Controlled Substances
  • Manufacture of Marijuana (THC)
  • Delivery of Controlled Substances
  • Delivery of Marijuana (THC)
  • Possession with Intent to Deliver Controlled Substances
  • Possession with Intent to Deliver Marijuana (THC)
  • Possession of Controlled Substances
  • Possession of Marijuana (THC)
  • Felony Possession of Marijuana (THC)
  • Unlawful Possession of Prescription Drugs
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
  • Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud
  • Prescription Forgery
  • Park and School Enhancers
  • Informants and Undercover Officers
This list is not complete but is given to give the reader some idea of the scope of my criminal law experience. I have represented juveniles as well as adults on most of these charges. CKK



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