You get a phone call, and this time it’s definitely not one you want. It’s not a trustee of the estate of a long-lost relative calling to say you got an unexpected inheritance.
Instead, it’s a law enforcement official. They want you to come and talk to them about a situation that happened recently.
Just about every person would fly into a panic in such a situation. And you probably would too.
How does this work?
Do you have to go in?
Should you go in just to get the state or Feds off your back?
Should you have a criminal defense lawyer with you if you do choose to talk to law enforcement?
1. For Starters, Do You Have to Go?
The answer is no, you do not. Law enforcement needs a subpoena or to arrest you to legally obligate you to talk to them.
There’s a couple considerations in this situation. One is, how will it look to law enforcement if you do refuse to come in? Innocent people, after all, don’t have a problem talking about their version of events because they did nothing wrong.
On the other hand, you’ve seen plenty of investigative reporting. While law enforcement is most often honest, sometimes they coerce confessions out of innocent individuals.
The reality is that, at this point, they may be suspecting you of a crime but do not have the evidence to arrest and charge you yet.
In a tough spot like this how do you decide? Consult a lawyer. They will charge you for some advice but it is money well spent. It can make a huge difference.
2. If You Decide to Cooperate, Should You Have a Lawyer Present?
You absolutely should hire a criminal defense attorney and take him or her with you. The simple reason is that law enforcement knows the law and exactly how to question you so you incriminate yourself. You don’t know the rules of their system. So, you’re at a huge disadvantage and you could easily make statements that can lead to your conviction, even if you are innocent.
While law enforcement did not have the information they needed to arrest and charge you, their goal in questioning is to get you to give them that evidence.
3. How Does Having a Criminal Defense Attorney Help You?
With a criminal defense attorney present when you talk to law enforcement, you have someone who knows the laws authorities operate by. You have more power and security during questioning. And that means you get help making sure you don’t say things that incriminate you. Police are trained to pose questions in such a way that it seems like answering them is the fastest way to get them to leave you alone but what they are really trying to do is build a case against you.
It’s important to tell the truth when it is in your best interest. But there are other times when, innocent or not, you should not say anything. A criminal defense attorney can understand the situation from a legal perspective, so you don’t experience any unnecessary or unfair criminal punishment. Remember that you always have the right to remain silent and in many cases attorneys have to advise their clients that it would be in their best interest to exercise that right.
If you have to talk to law enforcement, having a criminal defense lawyer on your side is the only way to go.