A police officer can stop you on the street and talk to you, but that doesn't mean you have to stay and chat. Whether you've done anything wrong or not, you can tell the officer you're not interested in talking and that you wish to go. This is within your rights as a citizen.

Some people will talk to the officer, though, essentially trying to talk their way out of an arrest. This may be unwise. In fact, the reality is that you probably don't have anything to gain by talking to the police, whether they say you're free to go or not.

When You Aren't Under Arrest

If you want to leave, you'll simply ask the officer if you're free to go. If he or she says yes, then you clearly have nothing to gain by talking. You can already leave and you don't need to talk your way out of anything. After all, you can't be arrested without probable cause, and the officer may just be talking to you and hoping you'll accidentally incriminate yourself.

When You Are Under Arrest

On the flip side, the officer may already be interested in arresting you, and he or she may tell you that you're not free to go. You are now being held or detained by the police. Again, though, it doesn't help to say anything. You're not going to convince an officer with probable cause to let you go, so talking only increases the risk of saying something that will come back to haunt you in court. You are typically best off to say you won't answer questions until you meet with your lawyer. This is also within your rights.

Police Power and Citizen Rights

So, as you can see, there's not really a situation in which you have a lot to gain by talking to the police. Be sure you understand your rights and don't let the police bully you into talking when you don't want to; they'll sometimes try to use their position of power to do just that, hoping that you'll feel nervous and allow them to control the situation, even when you don't legally have to do so. If you've been arrested, whether you think it was a legal arrest or not, remember that you then have a right to a lawyer and you still have the right to remain silent.