Most of us live our lives uninterrupted by police intervention. However, there may come a time when the police want to talk to you. What should you do?
If the police have you in custody and wish to speak with you, (referred to legally as "interrogation") they are required to provide you with a Miranda warning. This warning specifically tells you four things.
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you.
- You have the right to an attorney who can be present during questioning.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.
When one looks at this list in the cold light of day, it is easy to see that you should probably ask for an attorney since you have that right and not say anything until you consult with that attorney. After all, anything you say can and will be used against you.
In many instances, however, police may show up at your home or place of business in the name of just “wanting to ask you a few questions” or they might "invite" you to the station to "tell your side of the story." If you are not in custody, police are not legally required to inform you of any of your Constitutional rights, including your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. Nonetheless, you should know that anything you say can and will be used against you. Consequently, just as in a situation where you are in custody, you can and should refuse to talk to police without an attorney present. An attorney who has experience in the criminal justice system can intervene on your behalf, protecting your constitutional rights, and exercising their best judgment about the advantages and disadvantages of speaking to police.
Sometimes, people are hesitant to tell police they want an attorney present during any questioning. After all, they reason, if they have nothing to hide, why hire an attorney? If we lived in a world where the innocent were never convicted and only the guilty people got charged with crimes, this reasoning may make sense. However, we don't live in that world. It seems like almost every day we read about another person who was wrongfully convicted of a crime. According to the New York Innocence Project, law enforcement spoke with and gained false confessions from more than 25% of all people who have since been exonerated by DNA evidence.
If you are being asked to speak with police about a criminal event, remember that you have rights. Having a criminal defense attorney on your side, protecting you from unrepresented questioning by police, is essential to protecting your interests. Contact Arthur Frost at Frost & Kavanaugh to schedule a consultation.