Some criminal charges start as police investigations. Someone might call the police and say their significant other assaulted them. A homeowner might call the police and report that their home was broken into. Police need to ascertain (1) was there a crime committed and (2) who committed this crime. If a police officer or a detective contacts you for “your side of the story”, should you talk to them?
The short answer is, not without talking to a lawyer first. You see, police officers are allowed, and even encouraged, to lie to a suspect to get the person to talk. In the case of a home invasion, the police might say to the suspect, “we already have people who will place you at the home during the time of the break-in, so you should make this easy on yourself.” This might not be true, but that does not matter if the suspect says, “okay, yes, I was there and I did it.” Now the suspected person has provided a confession.
In a situation where a significant other has accused their partner of assault, the police officer might say, “your partner is covered in bruises that they say are from you.” If the suspected person says, “that was only from me pushing them away!”, the police officer might write in their report, “the suspected person admitted to pushing the victim.” While technically true, that statement is not twisted to look like a confession to assault, rather than an assertion of self-defense.
Most importantly, it is illegal for a civilian to lie to a police officer. Lying to a police officer can lead to the charge of Making a False or Misleading Statement to a Public Servant under RCW 9A.76.175, a gross misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail. So while police officers can and will lie to you to obtain information, you can be criminally charged if they believe you are lying to them. It is unwise to enter such an uneven playing field without first consulting with a seasoned criminal defense lawyer.
In some cases, it might be beneficial to speak to the police, but that determination is based on the specifics of the allegations. Contact my office if police have identified you as a suspect of a crime, and start protecting yourself right away.