When the Police Come Knocking, Don’t Start Talking July 27, 2017

By Susan C. Stone and Kristina W. Supler

Students are typically raised to think that the police are their friends.  While there may be truth to this notion, if a student is on the receiving end of a police inquiry, the student must remember that the police officer’s duty is to investigate and that the student could be at risk of prosecution.

Should you find yourself in a position where the police are knocking on your door or calling you to ask questions about an incident, keep in mind the following tips:

1.) If the police knock on your door and ask to speak with you, step outside of your residence and ask the police what they want to discuss with you.  You want to find out the nature of their inquiry.  However, do not get lulled into a conversation or any substantive discussion.  Even a seemingly harmless question such as “what time did you get home last night” may have much broader significance than you think. Limit your responses and do not think that you will be able to talk your way into or out of something.

2.) Stay calm and be courteous. The police have a job to do, regardless of whether you cooperate, so nothing is gained by acting impolite.  Also, do not try to play lawyer or impress the police with your legal savvy! When the police are at your door, it’s unlikely that challenging the police about their probable cause will stop an investigation that has already been set in motion.

3.) Tell the police that before speaking with them, you need to contact a lawyer.  Asking for time to secure a lawyer is a routine request that police are accustomed to, whereas asking for time to talk to your parents does not trigger any legal protection.

4.) Keep in mind that campus police are deputized officers. Sometimes students have a misperception that campus police are not “real” police officers.  However, campus police can investigate crimes, make arrests, and present cases for prosecution. Also, campus police sometimes collaborate with local police.

5.) Finally, do not lie or tell the police what you think they want to hear. Even a small discrepancy in what you say could undermine your credibility in the future. Again, remain mindful of tip 1.

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