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College students: Remember your right to remain silent

Most University of Maryland students do not have much experience, if any, dealing with the police. If you are new to the region, you may be caught off guard by the amount of police you see in the area, whether it is University of Maryland or Prince George’s County police officers.

Whether the college experience is proving difficult to handle or you have done nothing wrong and police “just want to chat with you,” you should know that the way you handle the interaction could have a large effect on your future.

In fact, in nearly every situation, it is important to remember that you have a constitutional right to remain silent, and you need to take advantage of it. Here’s why:

  • Police know the law better than you do: Even if you know that you “did nothing wrong,” police are skilled interviewers who know how to trip you up and use your words against you. You could admit to a violation of the law without even knowing it.
  • Police don’t believe in coincidences: Even if you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, police are not likely to believe that there “must be some other explanation.”
  • Police know how to spot lies and inconsistencies: Whether you innocently mixed up your details or another witness did, if there are multiple stories, they may not believe yours, and that damages your credibility.
  • Police don’t have to tell you anything: An officer who wants to question you doesn’t have to tell you why, and he or she can even trick you into admitting some damaging information.

You cannot talk your way out of anything, even if you are telling them the truth. No matter what, even if you know in your heart that you have committed no crime, do not talk to the police. You can give them your name, but you can politely decline to answer any questions, even if they place you under arrest. After your name, the only thing you should say to the police if they keep asking you questions is “I want a lawyer.”

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