What to Do If Police Call You in for Questioning
Law enforcement can use any statements you make to them against you. When state or local police call you in for questioning, tell the officer that you want to have your criminal defense lawyer present so that you do not inadvertently make self-incriminating statements. The 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and New Mexico state laws protect your rights to legal counsel.
In This Post
In this post, I discuss how you can assert your rights, police conduct, and what to do if you need legal help. While the information presented below is general in nature, you should always speak with an attorney to fully understand your legal rights.
What to Say to Police If You Are Called In for Questioning
Bad things happen to good people. A simple mistake or being at the wrong place at the wrong time can have a life altering effect on your future. If you are called in for questioning as a criminal suspect by police, you simply need to tell them that you want a lawyer. Sitting there, without saying anything, does not invoke your rights and the police officer or detective still has the right to ask questions. Avoid making this mistake and politely speak up, even if you are not placed under arrest.
You can simply state:
“Officer, I will not answer any questions without my attorney present. I would like to leave. Am I free to leave officer?”
Doing so may be all the difference in the world.
Your Right to Remain Silent
However, police violate your Miranda rights if you invoke your right to remain silent after an arrest, which is a smart decision to make while waiting to speak with your lawyer. Your Miranda rights are those read by the arresting officer, which include the provisions outlined in the 5th Amendment. Anything you say, upon arrest, is admissible as evidence during criminal proceedings.
Rules that Apply to Police Questioning
The only caveat to the rule of general admissibility is that the statements you make must be voluntary. Police are prohibited from psychological or physical coercion to force a statement from you. Coerced statements are inadmissible in court.
If Police Coerced Your Statement
A common defense to statements is accusing law enforcement of coercion. However, police officers and detectives are prepared to say that you offered your statement voluntarily. If your statement was coerced, then you must have evidence to prove that it happened.
Examples of admissible evidence include medical records, video evidence, and photographs. For recorded statements, your criminal defense lawyer will request a copy of the video or audio file to review it independently. Without some evidence, the judge may side with the police officer.
Asking for a Lawyer Does NOT Imply Guilt
It is not unusual for people to want to help the police. However, it is your right not to issue a statement. Sometimes an innocent, well intentioned statement can be misconstrued, misunderstood, or misapplied. A great an example of this is in one of my favorite old school movies, My Cousin Vinny. While in custody and being questioned for what the suspect believes is inadvertently taking a can of tuna without paying for it, he admits to the crime and simply says that he did not mean to do it. While under that misbelief, the questioning progresses as follows:
Sheriff: When did you shoot him?
Sheriff: At what point did you shoot the clerk?
Suspect: I shot the clerk?
Sheriff: Yes, when did you shoot him?
Suspect: I shot the clerk?
As you can see the suspect believed he was being questioned for inadvertently taking a can of tuna without paying for it. However, he was being questioned for murder and his surprise at being accused of murder was misapplied as a confession to a crime which he not only did not commit but had no idea had occurred!
While this is of course a made for entertainment example, this situation has the potential of occurring in any police questioning. Keep this in mind, too: When law enforcement questions you, they do not have to tell you what they know, who they have interviewed, or what evidence they have available.
The fact that you are refusing to speak with the police is not something that they can use against you. There is a potential that you could unwittingly say something that gives them standing to believe you are suspicious or guilty.
Speak with a Lawyer, Not Law Enforcement
Even a seemingly honest or innocent statement to the police can become a problem for you or your loved one in the future. Most people are not thinking straight during police questioning, and rightfully so. The process is incredibly intimidating for anyone.
The Police Are Not On Your Side During Questioning
The most important thing to remember is that the police are not on your side when you are under investigation or after an arrest. One of their goals is to document your actions to use it as evidence in the courtroom, either supplied in the arrest documents or to prosecutors directly.
Your Criminal Defense Attorney Is on Your Side
There is minimal benefit to speaking with law enforcement if you do not have your attorney present. The second most critical action you can take is informing the officer that you want to talk with your lawyer and then start looking for one.
An experienced New Mexico criminal defense lawyer will help you handle the situation, potential charges, or court proceedings. You do not have to face this moment in life alone when you work with a legal professional who carries a reputation for results.
Start with a Free Case Strategy Session Today
Your Time Matters
If you have to leave a message, my office will return your call as soon as possible, but no later than twenty-four (24) business hours.
It is not always possible for my clients to travel to my Las Vegas, New Mexico office for health or legal reasons. My legal team offers remote meetings in a virtual setting to make things as convenient as possible for clients through secure video conferencing, telephone calls, text messaging, or email.