Don't Answer That

The accused is in an interrogation room, and has demanded a lawyer, who has arrived. The lawyer sits at his client's side as the detectives/crime lab/whoever drops a key piece of evidence on the table and accuses them again of the crime.

The client immediately begins to confess. Sometimes the lawyer will attempt half-heartedly to stop him ("Don't answer that" or "This interview is over"), but the new evidence causes so much grief and repentance that the victim gives a bone-chilling Motive Rant which real-life detectives would kill to have. Sometimes, the lawyers don't say anything. One can only assume they got their payments up front. Often the result of an Exasperated Perp.

Legally speaking, the detectives can ask anything they want once the lawyer is available to the client, but if the lawyer asks or demands to speak to the client alone, then police officers are required to leave the room or otherwise allow a private discussion. The fact that the lawyers in TV shows simply tell their clients not to answer something does not prevent the detectives from continuing to question. Which usually means that the lawyers are pretty damn ineffectual.

Another type of Don't Answer That (featured in The Closer frequently, and both nonfiction-book and fictional-TV versions of Homicide: Life on the Street) is a ploy used by a detective to get suspects to waive their rights. ("He came at you, didn't he? That's self-defense. Whole different thing, then..." "Yeah, he did! He-!" "Whoa, whoa—don't answer that—you can't tell me that sort of thing unless you sign this waiver...")note 

The meta-reason for this trope is that viewers are aware that the interviewee is entitled to have a lawyer in the room, but narratively, they have nothing to do - the interesting interaction in the scene is between the suspect and the investigator, and having the lawyer do his job realistically would just put frustrating bureaucratic roadblocks in the way of the Pull the Thread process.

See also Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers.

Not to be confused with when someone tells someone else not to answer the door, phone, or whatever, or when one character asks an overly obvious or hypothetical question, and then quickly tacks on, "Don't answer that!" when he realizes that he's just committed a Rhetorical Question Blunder.


    open/close all folders 

    Fan Works 

  • A variant is done in Betrayed, when two police officers interview Zoey about the deaths and disappearances of several boys she knew from her human high school. Neferet sits in on the interrogation and continuously interrupts by insisting that Zoey not answer the questions. Given that Neferet was in no way acting as Zoey's legal advisor, was not a parent or guardian, and in fact informed the officers that all vampire students are legally emancipated (somehow), one wonders why the officers put up with her constant interruptions at all.
  • The primary job of the various accountants of the old-money Lavish family in Making Money is either advising their clients of this, or performing an after-the-fact version by disclaimer (for instance, when one Lavish casually mentions the idea of poison in relation to a very unhelpful dog, her lawyer immediately chips in to say she was not referring to any particular course of action, only the existence of poisons in general). In the climactic trial scene, Anhk-Morpork's chief zombie lawyer, Mr. Slant, asks a question of the Lavishes which causes their entire legal department to object at once. Slant makes them sit back down, in unison, with a single Death Glare.

    Live Action TV 
  • If a suspect on Bones has a lawyer, they are invariably there for the purpose of saying this. One episode where Bones was the defendant had her increasingly exasperated lawyer marvel at just how Genre Blind Bones is for someone who works with the authorities all the time (Bones proactively gave the cops quite a bit of information that, unintentionally, made her appear more guilty than if she had just sat quietly until her lawyer could arrive).
  • Played with in New Tricks. The suspect is technically not entitled to a lawyer in the circumstances, but is stubbornly refusing to speak without one. They set up an elaborate charade whereby an Old-Fashioned Copper pretends to be an obstructive defense lawyer who aggravates the investigator to the point that he flies into a rage and "shoots" him, terrifying the perp into confessing.
  • All the time on the The Closer. The perps never, ever listen to their lawyers unless the plot requires it. Sayeth one smart lawyer:
    "I hate my job."
  • Averted in an episode of The Wire (which is more realistic than most series when it comes to the bureaucratic hurdles the police have to deal with). Bunk and McNulty trick D'Angelo Barksdale into writing a letter of condolence to the family of a murdered man (hoping he'll include some incriminating information) as they wait for his Amoral Attorney to arrive. He gets there just in time, tells D'Angelo to stop writing immediately, and drags him out the door for a consultation.
  • In the Prison Episode "Folsom Prison Blues" (S02, Ep19) of Supernatural, this is an Averted Trope with the Winchester's public defender stopping the FBI interrogation and asking to meet with her clients alone.
  • Hunter: It's Rick Hunter who does this despite being a Cowboy Cop, in an episode involving a Vigilante Man who killed a gangster who raped his wife. The man is just about to confess when Hunter says, "Stop!" then advises him of his rights, specifically the right to contact a lawyer. And the lawyer just happens to be a skilled Amoral Attorney who's frustrated Hunter in the past. Of course, a police officer advising a suspect to contact a particular lawyer would be illegal, as said lawyer points out.