It’s a difficult spot to be in – the police have requested an interview with you relating to a crime or are actively questioning you about an event you’ve witnessed or could possibly be a suspect for. You may feel the urge to unburden yourself and give statements to law enforcement immediately, but this could seriously backfire later on.
You may act out of the desire to cooperate with law enforcement to prove you have nothing to hide, but statements given in those hasty interviews could have ramifications you’re not aware of. So should you have an attorney present when answering questions from law enforcement?
In a word, yes. Whether or not you answer police questions immediately has no bearing on your guilt or innocence in a case. The U.S. Constitution provides two amendments to protect us in police interrogation scenarios. The Fifth Amendment guarantees your right to remain silent, meaning you do not have to talk to law enforcement. The Sixth Amendment guarantees you the right to have an attorney present during police questioning.
Advantages of Having an Attorney Present
An officer may advise you to speak immediately without an attorney in order to cooperate with their investigation, but this is not in your best interest. The opportunity to cooperate isn’t lost because you request that counsel be present at the time of questioning. By having an attorney present, you alleviate the risk of incriminating yourself in a few ways:
Confession vs. Proffer
If you speak to law enforcement without an attorney present, you may be coerced into confessing to a crime without even knowing it. With an attorney present, your statements are used in a “proffer session,” or a conversation between you and law enforcement where you have the advantage of legal counsel.
Having a Witness
Having an attorney present during questioning also benefits you by having a witness present to provide an account of events if needed later. Many times interviewees claim that they were misquoted in a police report. With an attorney present, you have a witness to what was said so later it won’t be your word against the officer’s.
If you are contacted to answer questions as a witness to an event, you should still have an attorney present. If you give a statement that contradicts another statement by a witness the officer believes to be more credible, you could be opening yourself to charges of obstructing an investigation or giving false information.
In nearly every situation where you are asked to respond to police questions, it is advisable to have an attorney present to see that your interests are looked after. Not doing so could be a big mistake.
What to Do When Police Request an Interview with You
If you’re ever asked by law enforcement to submit to questioning, don’t immediately start answering their questions. Here is a brief list of what you should do first:
- Inform the officer that you would like to contact your attorney before answering any questions. They will likely try to talk you out of doing so, but hold fast to your request and don’t answer any questions.
- Get the name and number of the officer requesting the interview and inform him or her that you will contact them again after you have spoken to your attorney.
- Contact an experienced defense attorney about the matter and follow the advice given. If you hire the attorney to defend you, they will contact the police and district attorney on your behalf so you aren’t putting yourself in jeopardy.
If you’ve been contacted by law enforcement for questioning and need legal assistance, contact us today at 1-800-894-5931 to schedule a consultation immediately.
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