It could start with an unexpected knock on the door, or a seemingly routine traffic stop. Or maybe you get a phone call asking you to “come down to the station for a chat.”
The police have some questions for you.
Are you required to answer? Do you have the right to refuse? Are you a suspect?
There are many reasons why most people feel uncomfortable talking to the police:
Remember that there is no such thing as speaking “off the record” to a police officer or detective. It’s essential that you know what to do when contacted by law enforcement and how a qualified criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights, understand the process and answer questions appropriately.
You can be required to give basic information about yourself such as name, address and phone number.
For instance, if you are pulled over for a suspected traffic violation, officers may legally ask for your ID and insurance documents.
If you are asked about other matters beyond this, you have the right to refuse, and to request the presence of an attorney as a condition for answering the questions.
The 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows you to refuse to answer most questions from police. In most cases you cannot be arrested for refusing to answer questions.
If you are under arrest, officers must issue the familiar Miranda warning which informs you of your constitutional right to remain silent. Statements made while under arrest can be used against you in court. You may stop answering questions at any time, and police must stop questioning you if you do so.
If you are not under arrest but asked to submit to questioning, ask to schedule a time after you’ve had a chance to consult with your attorney, and request that your attorney accompany you to the interview.
Once you are placed under arrest, do not make any statements except to request an attorney!
As hard as it may be, it is in your interest to be polite, respectful and professional with law enforcement, even if it isn’t reciprocated. Stay relaxed and speak in a measured tone, and don’t use profanities.
Remember, the police are legally allowed to lie, to trick you and to record whatever you say.
Once you are in custody, there is nothing you are going to say to get law enforcement to release you. That’s why you should never make any statements except to ask for an attorney.
The bottom line is you must never give any unrequired information to police without consulting an attorney first.
Attempting to answer law enforcement questions without the assistance of a criminal defense attorney is highly risky. As noted above, detectives frequently ask questions designed to trick you into admitting guilt, contradicting yourself or giving other incriminating answers. Working with an attorney can help you avoid these pitfalls.
Your attorney will also want to find out why officers want to speak with you, such as whether they consider you to be a suspect, co-conspirator, witness or victim in the case.
Have you been contacted by law enforcement wanting to ask you some questions? Contact Eng & Woods before speaking with them. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys understand how to navigate the process and ensure that your rights are protected.