Dealing with the police (video): How did this guy do?

So, you decide.  Was it worth “talking” in an effort to “not look guilty?”

One of my favorite things to do is break down the abstract rules of “the law” into practical, useful information.  For instance, I’ve explained two simple things to consider if you don’t want to be arrested.  I even wrote a little bit on my three favorite things to hear out of people when they are dealing with the police.  If you haven’t read that yet, you might want to check it out.  Otherwise the rest of this post will make (even) less sense.

Earlier today it occurred to me that my ideas on how to act around the police might be difficult to envision.  It’s one thing to hear how my soul warms when reading a “suspect” tell a police officer that they’re not going to speak without first talking to a lawyer.  It’s another to see how that interaction actually unfolds in real life.  After all, no two situations are the same.  This is precisely why nothing on this web page can be considered legal advice as to how you should act in your particular circumstance.  If you really need legal advice, feel free to call.  If you anonymously read this stuff, decide to play amateur lawyer, and put it into action without talking to an attorney first, you are playing a dangerous game.  Just call a lawyer.

Anyhow, a quick review of my three favorite things to hear:

  1. “Am I free to leave?”
  2. “I want to speak with an attorney before I talk to you.”
  3. “No”

Now, suppose you find yourself in an alley one day under police suspicion.  Two police officers are all in your business.  What do you do?  When do you say what?  Assume that you have already been arrested, so asking if you are free to leave isn’t going to get you anywhere- scrap that off the list.  Let’s also pretend you are wearing a green shirt, and your name is Mr. Turner.  Shall we?

Keep in mind, many people say they don’t want to say any of “My Three Favorite Things” because it makes them look guilty.  Did you watch the plight of Mr. Turner?  If you have been able to get over the shock of seeing people wearing short sleeves at 5:00 a.m. in December, think about what just happened in that video.  Would Mr. Turner look more or less guilty if he had done the following:

  • Said “I would like to speak with an attorney” (at about :19) instead of saying (paraphrased to delete expletive) “I understand I was driving under the influence, but I wasn’t driving… I WASN’T driving.”
  • Said “no” when asked to do the balance test (at about :55) instead of rambling, ranting and eventually trying to do it.

That’s only for the first minute and a half of video.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a juror.  Assume that all you have to go on is that video.  Is he guilty of DUI?  Would he look more or less so if he had asked to talk to a lawyer?  I want to know. Seriously.  Send me an email, or let me know in the comments.

From a defense attorney perspective, this guy doesn’t have a bad case.  There is no video of him driving or actually being in the car.  He complicates it entirely with his attitude and most the stuff he says, though (ie. initially saying he knows he was driving drunk).  If he had said nothing, it’s a Not Guilty.  In fact, it’s probably not even going to trial.

With what he said, though, it gets a bit more difficult.  Illinois law doesn’t actually require you to drive in order to be found guilty of Driving Under the Influence of alcohol- silly as that may be.  Based on what his own statements were, he may have been in actual physical control.  Even though I still like Mr. Turner’s chances (and that is based just on the video alone… who knows what other “real life” evidence was presented for either side), his attitude may scare jurors.

So, you decide.  Was it worth “talking” in an effort to “not look guilty?”

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

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