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5 Reasons for Retracting a Statement
(Importance of Witnesses & More)

When you’re being interviewed by law enforcement, it’s natural to be nervous or intimidated. Complicating the matter, police often use interrogation tactics to confuse and overwhelm people, forcing them to make statements they wish they hadn’t. In some cases, it may be possible to retract these statements. The effect said retractment may have depends on multiple factors, including whether you’re the one being accused of a criminal offence or just a witness, and the circumstances in which your statement was made.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What are Some Reasons Why a Person Would Retract a Statement?

There are numerous reasons why a victim or witness may want to recant an initial statement, including:

  • The person made a mistake when initially being interviewed
  • A witness was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the interview was being conducted
  • Police misunderstood the witness and made an error in taking down his or her statement
  • A victim or witness decided not to be involved in a case, and/or
  • A person lied to the police.

Related Article: What Is the Punishment for Lying to the Police?

Can I Get Into Trouble for Retracting My Statement?

The law gives people the option of retracting or withdrawing a statement made to a police officer or other law enforcement official. However, even when a statement is retracted because it was untrue or a lie, a prosecutor can still charge a defendant with a crime and face criminal prosecution.

In most states, the District Attorney decides whether or not to file charges in criminal cases. The decision to file charges cannot be made by a victim or witness. This means that a prosecutor can pursue a case against a defendant, regardless of whether or not a statement was retracted. This is assuming the prosecutor has sufficient evidence to back up the allegations.

Is a Witness Statement Confidential?

Not quite. Once your witness statement is served, it may only be used for the legal proceedings for which it is produced. The witness statement has been put into evidence at a hearing to be held in public (i.e. in open court).

Related Article: How do Police Handle Anonymous Tips?

Can I Refuse to Give a Statement to the Police?

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives you protection from being required to make any statement that could incriminate you. However, like any right, it's up to you to use it and you are always free to waive (give up) the right.

What if I Don't Want to Give a Statement?

Tell the police officer in charge of the case immediately that you wish to stand mute. The police will probably want you to give evidence in court to help settle the case. However, never feel pressured to do anything you don't want to - do what feels right to you.

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If you feel affected by any of these matters, you should contact a criminal defense attorney and seek help.

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