OpEd: Not Talking to the Police Can Lead to Freedom or Prison for Young Black Men & Women

by Tyshawn Brown

Knowing your rights as a young black man or woman can make all the difference in the world when interacting with the police. Many innocent people find themselves in prison because of what they said to police during an arrest.

NEVER, and I mean NEVER ever for any reason at all, NEVER agree to be interviewed on video by any police officer or Assistant DA if you are ever arrested. It is your right to say no I will not agree to be interviewed on video.  In fact you should never agree to be interviewed or questioned without an attorney, on or off camera.  The officers might lie and say hey just answer a few questions and we’ll let you go.  They are NOT going to let you go, so be calm and wait until you hire an attorney or have one appointed to you.  Only speak to an attorney. Below is information from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)

  1. You have the right to remain silent and the right to talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police. Don’t tell the police anything except your name and address. Don’t give any explanations, excuses, or stories. You can make your defense later, in court, based on what you and your lawyer decide is best.
  2. If you have a lawyer, ask to see your lawyer immediately. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you have the right to a free one once your case goes to court. You can ask the police how to contact a lawyer. Don’t say anything to police without speaking to a lawyer first.
  3. Within a reasonable time after your arrest or booking, you should ask the police to contact a family member or friend. If you are permitted to make a phone call, anything you say at the precinct may be recorded or listened to. Never talk about the facts of your case over the telephone.
  4. Do not make any decisions in your case or sign any statements until you have talked with a lawyer.

This advice can make the difference of whether you end up in prison or not, even if you are innocent. They will use everything you say against you, even if you make a mistake with a time or location.