Demand a Lawyer to Stop Interrogation
When police interrogate you in New York, all questioning must stop when you clearly demand a lawyer. However, police don’t always follow this rule.
So, when police ask you questions, you should:
- Demand a lawyer using crystal clear language.
- Otherwise remain completely silent.
- Repeatedly demand a lawyer until questioning stops.
- Renew your demand for a lawyer on each occasion when police question you.
Clearly Demand a Lawyer
A simple demand for a lawyer, using crystal clear language, looks like this:
“I need a lawyer.”
Whenever you’re questioned by police, repeat “I need a lawyer”, until questioning stops.
Examples of things NOT to say:
Courts have ruled that none of these responses triggers your right to counsel: they are not clear demands for a lawyer.
Courts have ruled that “I need an attorney” is an “unequivocal”, crystal clear demand for a lawyer:
[W]hen the defendant stated that he “need[ed] to see private counsel” and that he “need[ed] an attorney,” the defendant’s indelible right to counsel attached, and the questioning by the investigator should have stopped.
People of the State of New York v. Justin Carrino, 134 A.D.3d 946 (2nd Dep’t 2015).
“I need a lawyer” works equally well.
Memorize these four words: “I need a lawyer.” Use them whenever police try to speak with you.
Other than Demanding a Lawyer, Remain Silent
Other than demanding a lawyer, don’t say anything to police. Remain silent. You should never speak to police.
Respond to every police attempt to get you engage you in conversation with, “I need a lawyer.” Say nothing else.
Do this wherever you encounter police: at the police station, in your home, on the phone, etc.
The investigating officer might be pleasant. He might try to initiate conversation about things unrelated to the investigation. But he’s playing you – trying to build rapport and gain your trust. His goal is to get your guard down and your lips moving.
He knows that moving lips tend to keep moving, long after the conversation has shifted from “How ’bout them Yankees” to “Stealing from your employer doesn’t make you a bad person”.
Although you might feel rude and awkward, your only response to police conversation of any kind should be to demand a lawyer.
Repeatedly Demand a Lawyer
Be prepared for your interrogator to continue questioning you after you demand a lawyer.
When police questioning continues after you first demand a lawyer, continue to demand a lawyer, over and over again.
If police ask you 1,000 questions, then you should respond, “I need a lawyer” 1,000 times.
Demand a Lawyer on Every Occasion
Don’t let police wear you down.
If a detective speaks with you by phone on Monday, talks to you at your doorstep on Tuesday morning, and brings you to the precinct on Tuesday night, demand a lawyer on each occasion.
State “I need a lawyer” on Monday, state it Tuesday morning, and state it Tuesday night. State it on every other occasion when police approach you. And don’t say anything else.
Police will arrest you, no matter what you tell them. You’re best option is to say absolutely nothing – with the exception of, “I need a lawyer.”
Bruce Yerman is a criminal defense attorney in New York City. His office is located on the fourth floor of 160 Broadway in Manhattan.
If you’d like a free consultation to discuss how to demand a lawyer, or to discuss any other issue related to criminal defense or family law, call Bruce at:
Or email Bruce a brief description of your situation:
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