Any encounter with law enforcement can be stressful and scary, even if you have not committed a crime. Many people have questions about whether and when they are required to talk to police.
Did you know that the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from self-incrimination? This means that you are not legally required to give information that could be used against you. Below is a brief guide containing important information to know when talking to police, and how to protect yourself from self-incrimination.
Know Your Rights
You have a Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination – commonly called “the right to remain silent.” You may have heard the term “Miranda warning.” This refers to a Supreme Court decision where the Court said that police officers are required to advise people of their constitutional rights prior to them questioning then during an arrest.
Police are required to advise you of your right to remain silent prior to questioning you when you are arrested or detained. However, law enforcement may also ask you questions or invite you to voluntarily meet and give a statement. In this type of situation, they are not required to follow the same procedures as during an arrest. At The Center for Criminal and Immigration law we always recommend that you contact an attorney before discussing anything with law enforcement. Even if you are completely innocent, there are certain situations where providing a statement could actually be harmful to you. You are never required to speak to law enforcement without an attorney present.
Here is an example of a scenario where a police interview could have negative consequences for an innocent person: The police are investigating a crime that happened in your neighborhood last Friday night. You fit the general description of the suspect. The police ask you to come in and answer some questions. You know you are innocent, so you feel comfortable helping them and voluntarily meet at the station without an attorney. The police ask you where you were the night of the crime and you tell them the truth – you spent the entire night out of town for a friend’s birthday party.
Only, on your drive home from the station you realize you were mistaken! You mixed up your Friday and Saturday night. On Friday night, you were actually at home watching Netflix. At this point, you can begin to look suspicious as the police also interviewed your neighbor and they said they remember seeing you in your driveway on Friday night. Now, the police may be looking at you as a suspect, and there may be questions down the road about your credibility since you have given inconsistent alibis.
See how quickly a simple mistake can snowball into a problematic situation? If you are contacted by law enforcement, consult an attorney to understand your rights and obligations.
Being investigated, interviewed, or charged with a crime is likely to be one of the most stressful and scary experiences of your life. Having experienced legal representation to advise and guide you through the process is invaluable. It is important to understand your legal rights at every step in the process. At The Center for Criminal and Immigration law, we have an experienced team ready to guide you through this trying time. We offer free criminal consultations to assess your case and discuss legal strategies to obtain the best possible outcome. Contact us today for your consultation.