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Crime.Justice & America - Arrested? What's Next? - A DOZEN THINGS NOT TO SAY TO THE POLICE & WHAT YOU SHOULD SAY, aka “The Dirty Dozen

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WHAT YOU SHOULD SAY, aka “The Dirty Dozen”


By Dale S. Gribow and Robert E. Levy

Attorneys at Law

Riverside County

Police work in a world where each situation that they view, has a perceived zone of danger or a suspicion of wrong doing that is not visible to the average citizen. Their perception and sensitivity to both danger and ethics is on a different plane than most of us. Consequently some things that we might say when contacting police, although not illegal, threatening or self-serving may be substantially inappropriate.

1. “I only had 2 beers.” This is the most common statement an officer hears when he stops you for a DUI. He can tell from your field sobriety test, your weight and your breath reading from the breath test at the scene whether you are telling the truth. So can your lawyer.

WHAT SHOULD YOU SAY?                    

My lawyer told me to speak to him before I spoke to anyone. I want to cooperate with you but my lawyer has given me instructions. This shifts the blame to your attorney.

2. “I know the Mayor.” In today’s world the veteran police officer might be the next-door neighbor of the Mayor. Clearly this is an attempt to unduly influence police conduct. Knowing the local drug dealer and having a willingness to inform upon him would serve you better than knowing the mayor.

WHAT SHOULD YOU SAY?                    

Your knowledge of people or things that could be a bargaining tool for a plea disposition at a later time is best left in the hands of your lawyer. He will know the most advantageous time to use it and to whom the information would serve you best. The first officer at the scene would not be an effective recipient of this information.

3. “Somebody else did it.” This is the famous or infamous “soddi” defense also known as “Some other dude did it.” This doesn’t help you and sets the tone of lack of cooperation that will hurt you later down the line if this becomes a court case.


In this situation it is best to say nothing. Invoke your rights to counsel. Someone else may have done it but you won’t convince the police at the initial stages of investigation without the aid of counsel.

4. “Why did you stop me?” This presumes that there was no reason to stop you and you have become confrontational and uncooperative.


A standard greeting like, “Good morning” and nothing further is best.

5. “What’s your badge number?” As a District Attorney I carried a badge for 27 years and never remembered the number. My bar card has a number and I have never committed it to memory. This presumes that the officer knows his number and even if he did that he should give it to you. Additionally you are telling him that you plan a complaint to internal affairs, which will not endear you to him or his partner. Thus he will spend even more time preparing the arrest report to be sure he gets a conviction. Sometimes this can involve manufacturing evidence.


If you’re thinking about this put it out of your mind and say nothing. If, in fact, there is a legitimate complaint it can be made through administrative channels at a later time without making your detention more serious.

6. “All the crime is on the other side of town, why are you stopping me?” The officer might very well live on the other side and will, of course, take affront, and will be motivated to manufacture probable cause to have stopped you.


“Thanks for stopping me. Did you see a mechanical defect or safety problem with my car?” “Thanks for your concern.”

7. “I’m lost and I thought you might know the nearest donut shop.” All stops and contacts are filled with potential danger. Bad jokes and stereotyped comments can inflame the situation. Your job as a detainee is to be professional and not threatening.

WHAT SHOULD YOU SAY?                    

“How can I assist you officer?” Keep your hands on the wheel and your seat belt fastened and turn off the motor. If you have done nothing wrong you will be all right. You probably won’t need to call your lawyer in this instance.

8. “You have the wrong person. Its my twin brother.” This is a lame defense used by people who have warrants out for their arrest. However, in 37 years of criminal practice I did have one case where this was a true statement.


Cooperate. Ask for a phone call. Call a bondsman and get out of jail. Then call your lawyer to clear up the issue and minimize your sentence.

9. “Yes you can search my car.” This won’t help you if in fact there are drugs or a dead body in the trunk. If there is no probable cause to search why incriminate yourself.


Say No. If there is no probable cause to search a warrant is needed and a warrant will not be granted without probable cause. This is your perfect opportunity to use the words in all cop shows, “Show me your search warrant.”

10. “The drugs are not mine. I was just holding them for a friend.” Even if true, you have admitted dominion and control and have no defense. Your statement can be used as an admission of guilt. There is a defense of transitory possession but that will not apply here.

WHAT SHOULD YOU SAY?                    

If you were to say anything, deny knowledge of the drugs. Any admission of knowledge of the illegal nature of the substance works against you.

11. “The car belongs to a friend. I don’t know his name.” This is the permission defense for driving the stolen car. The lack of a name and address puts your credibility in issue and makes the prosecution case for receiving stolen property by your evasive and obviously fabricated defense.


Best not to say anything. Make the police find the owner or the stolen report. Maybe the car is not reported stolen. Maybe there is no victim. Anything you say adds to consciousness of guilt and presumptive knowledge.

12. “She wanted it.” This defense to forcible rape will serve as an admission to the intercourse and will make the job of the District Attorney easier. He won’t have to prove the identity of the perpetrator.


Under these circumstances, shift the blame to your lawyer and invoke your right to not incriminate yourself. The less you say the better. Make the District Attorney prove all the elements of his case including identity.

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