What do you do if you are approached by the police to be interviewed? There are generally only a few reasons the police will want to talk with you: if you are a suspect in a criminal investigation or you witnessed or are a victim in a crime. Let’s talk about the first scenario.
If you are a suspect in a crime, the police are required to provide you with “Miranda” warnings only when two conditions are met: one, you are in custody and not free to leave, and two, you are subject to interrogation. This means that if the police don’t arrest you, or otherwise detain you, but simply want to “talk” to you about a crime, they do not have to tell you that you can refuse to talk to them. This can be confusing because most people feel compelled to talk to the police when asked to do so.
You ALWAYS have the right to remain silent when approached by the police and questioned, whether they provide you with “Miranda” warnings or not. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees this right to all of us, as well as the right to the presence of an attorney if and when we do talk to the police. You will not be arrested only for simply telling a police officer that you would rather not provide an interview or that you would like to consult with an attorney first.
Generally, when you are a suspect in a criminal investigation, it is never a good idea to talk with the police without an attorney present to protect your interests and rights. Facts can be misconstrued, inappropriate questions asked and, almost always, there is nothing that you can say to make your situation better. A knowledgeable criminal lawyer who knows the details of your situation can advise you to take the appropriate course of action.
A mistaken assumption that people often make is that they will be “rewarded” somehow for being forthcoming and honest, either by not being charged with the crime or by working out some sort of agreement with police. No matter how honest you are, very rarely, if ever, will that honesty result in a benefit to you at the investigation stage. Instead, your statement will solidify various aspects of the investigation making your situation much worse than if you had remained silent or sought a lawyer’s presence.
So, to summarize, you always have the right to remain silent and to not provide information to the police if you are the suspect in an investigation. If you want to tell your side of the story, please seek the advice of a criminal attorney who can guide you through the process and protect your rights.