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The Importance Of Thinking Before Speaking When Police Are Involved

The real reason to stay calm and keep your wits about you.

By Jason Ray MortonPublished 22 days ago 5 min read
Image by Alexa from Pixabay

I spent 25 years around police, in a uniform, and watching the mistakes that people make when dealing with the police. There’s one that always shocked me.

There are different reasons you want to do certain things if you’re confronted by the police. Hoping to get leniency, hoping to not get shot, and hoping for some level of understanding. Put those three away, as I’m going to tell you what one good reason to act a certain way is, and why.

The Benefit Of Staying Calm During A Police Encounter Helps You

We’ve all heard of the Miranda warning. Few people understand it due to the gratuitous use of it on television and in movies. There is one thing about the Miranda warning that won’t help you if you’re not calm, and that’s why you give the cops what they want. Yes, give them compliance, stay calm, and fight it in a courtroom. But, there’s one other thing that they’ll love to get from you.

Excited Utterance

Under the rules of evidence, an excited utterance is defined as a statement that concerns a startling event, made by the declarant when still under stress from the event. That can and does include the arrest, and yes, they are admissible under an exception to the rules of hearsay.

Understanding the definition and seeing how they work are two different things. Here are two true stories from my time as an officer.

  1. On a night about fifteen years ago I pulled into work at the department and noticed there were several federal vehicles in the lot. At that time of night, as we were getting ready for the third shift, I knew the night was going to be a long one. Later, an official with the Joint Terrorism Task Force pulled out a gentleman and they were discussing biographic information. Suddenly, the gentleman started to expound on things and events over the previous few days. As the question the authority figure asked was referencing the person’s place of birth, this was an excited utterance. The authority figure stood there and let the man finish, making notes about what he said.
  2. As a booking officer in my early years, I began processing the paperwork on a gentleman that would leave a ghostly mark on my soul with his excited utterance. When I asked him for his name he proceeded to go into graphic details of his crimes against children. Believing that he wasn’t in his right mind, and not wanting to hear such details on a case that was already at the arrest point, I put him back for a while and then retried the booking. Again, he made excited utterances that were far from the answers of name, address, phone number, next of kin, do you have tattoos, where you work, emergency contact, and medical information. A forty-five minute-long excited utterance about his sins came pouring out of his mouth like raw sewage spewing out of a flooded New York City sewer.
  3. In 2009 a Deputy brought a guy in and put him into one of the booking room holding cells. As soon as the Deputy left, the arrestee called me by name and proceeds to say, “Tell me what you think of this.” Standing there, having not asked a single question of him, he proceeds to tell me the nature of his arrest and how “deputy doofus” didn’t even get all the checks that were stolen. Then proceeds to tell me where the stolen checks were located. I did finally answer his question, as to what I thought of his story, as he’d just admitted the entire check scheme and additional physical evidence could now be located. He didn’t like my answer, but strangely said, “yeah, you’re probably right.”

While I don’t know what happened in the case of the two Pakistani gentlemen, in the case of the ones I had to deal with, it wound up being admissible and helped to save the case. When the story #2 defendant admitted that I’d cautioned him about running his mouth without his lawyer and he continued anyway, the judge ruled in favor of the state.

The State’s Attorney’s representative at the time explained it this way. The excited utterance isn’t in response to what is asked, particularly in the case of asking for your driver's license, insurance card, full name, address, or other personal information. Essentially, unless there’s reason to believe the person making the utterance was incapable of understanding what they were doing, it’s a voluntary confession, sometimes.

Takeaways to Remember

In certain instances, police will likely ask you questions before taking you into custody if you’ve committed an offense. Before being taken into custody, for even a DUI, it’s up to you to keep your calm and not hurt your future criminal defense.

Once arrested or detained, if police are going to ask you questions about an offense they believe you committed, they have to read you the Miranda warning. In cases where they don’t need to ask you anything because they believe they have enough evidence to arrest you and detain you, or they have a warrant for your arrest, it’s unlikely you’ll be told you have the right to remain silent, but anything you voluntarily, or excitedly say, will get used against you in court if it points to your guilt in a crime.

There are a certain number of crimes that can affect anyone’s life. Even the most upstanding individuals in society can find themselves the subject or target of a police matter. Remember to stay calm, carefully listen to any questions before you speak, and remain cooperative. You’ll have your day in court and your lawyer can air grievances about the arrest, procedures, and evidence if there are such issues. It’s not going to do you any good to make your situation worse.

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About the Creator

Jason Ray Morton

I have always enjoyed writing and exploring new ideas, new beliefs, and the dreams that rattle around inside my head. I have enjoyed the current state of science, human progress, fantasy and existence and write about them when I can.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (3)

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  • Mariann Carroll21 days ago

    Nice article, thanks for sharing your expertise with us once again . 👌👍

  • Donna Renee21 days ago

    Well. I just found out how much I don’t know!! This was so informative!

  • This is a really good article Jason. You did a great job!

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