Are you walking into trouble if you talk to police on the street?

Let's say you and your friends go to a party in Tennessee. You just finished finals, and are eager for a little rest and relaxation. As is common on the college scene, the party may have gotten a bit out of hand, a fight broke out, and you decides it's best to hit the pavement before the matter escalates. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that you and your date had a little altercation of your own an hour or so earlier. You figured you'd give your date time to sleep it off, and things would be better in the morning.

However, to your shock and dismay, as you exit the house where the party was hosted, you get a block or two down the street (maybe on your way to your car) and are suddenly and unexpectedly approached by two people who appear to be uniformed police officers. For some reason you feel nervous and afraid, even though you know you didn't do anything wrong.

What you can, as well as what you shouldn't do

The police officers say hello, and you return their greeting with a smile and a polite nod of your head. That's when things take a turn for the worse. The officers request a moment of your time because they want to ask you a few questions. Such situations can be quite intimidating. Remembering the following may help you remain calm and keep out of trouble:

  • Unless a police officer has formally stopped you on suspicion of criminal wrongdoing, or as part of an ongoing investigation, you do not have to enter into conversation with him or her.
  • You are within your rights to politely explain that you do not wish to converse, and continue walking away.
  • If a police officer informs you that you are not free to leave, consider yourself formally detained.
  • It's generally a bad idea to flee the scene or act impertinent in any way.
  • If police try to search your person, you may deny permission unless they have reason to believe you are armed and dangerous.
  • You are not obliged to answer any personal questions beyond those pertaining to basic identification information.

Unfortunately, more than one person has gone through a similar situation and wound up being falsely accused of assault or other violent crimes. Giving police information about the party you attended, who you were with or any other private information may come back to haunt you in court if police file criminal charges against you.

In such circumstances, you can request immediate assistance from an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can act as your personal advocate in all relevant discussions with law enforcement and court officials to protect your rights and secure the best outcome possible.

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