Criminal Defense Blog NYC

How to Demand a Lawyer in New York

Posted by Bruce Yerman on June 11, 2018

Asserting Your Right to Counsel

When police interrogate you in New York, all questioning must cease when you clearly demand a lawyerHowever, police don't always follow this rule.

So, when police ask you questions, you should:

  1. Demand a lawyer using crystal clear language.
  2. Otherwise remain completely silent.
  3. Repeatedly demand a lawyer until questioning stops.
  4. Renew your demand for a lawyer on each occasion when police question you.
Get "Demonstration: How to Demand a Lawyer"

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:

"Do I need a lawyer?"

"Should I get a lawyer?"

"Maybe I want a lawyer."

"I don't have an attorney"

Courts have ruled that none of these responses trigger your right to counsel: they are not clear demands for a lawyer.

Courts have ruled that "I need a lawyer" is an "unequivocal", crystal clear demand for a lawyer.

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 with 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.

Get "Demonstration: How to Demand a Lawyer"

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.

Get "Demonstration: How to Demand a Lawyer"


Bruce Yerman is a New York City criminal defense attorney. If you've been accused, contact Bruce for a Free Consultation regarding arrest or anything else that concerns you. 

Topics: Right to Counsel, Police Interrogation