If the Police Wants to Just Talk to You About a Crime: Call a Lawyer
It’s important to always have a criminal lawyer present if the police should ever want to talk to you in connection with a criminal case. You want a lawyer present even if you aren’t a suspect. This article looks at why this should be so.
When the police accuse you of a crime, you would remember what you’ve heard about never talking to the police without an experienced criminal defense lawyer by your side. The lawyer would tell you what questions to answer, and would guide you to make sure you didn’t incriminate yourself.
But what if the police called you in not as a suspect, but as a witness, or a person with information? If you didn’t do anything wrong, and if you’re not even a suspect, you might think it was safe to talk to the police, and say whatever you wanted. The truth is, however, that you can get into serious trouble even when you’re questioned as a witness — not as a suspect. You have the legal Miranda right to bring an attorney to any kind of interaction with the police, and you should use it.
A number of laws and rules make it possible for the police to get you into trouble even when you’re innocent. For instance, they can persuade you to take a polygraph test, and untruthfully tell you that you failed it. They can tell you, also untruthfully, that they found your fingerprints on a murder weapon — all to see if it rattles you enough to say something incriminating. You might say, for example, that you handled the weapon not on that day, but on a different day — which could open a can of worms. It is information the police don’t need to have, but can use against you.
Untruthful and unnecessary confessions are sometimes obtained in these ways, and they can be very persuasive to a jury. When unjust convictions are overturned with DNA testing years after a prison sentence, in one of three cases, the defendants are found to have confessed to crimes they never committed.
People with low IQs (about 10% of the population), and children, are also prone to unnecessary confessions when they are dishonestly and aggressively interrogated by the police. Juries often don’t realize that low IQs, or inexperience, make people confess to things they never did. Most countries don’t allow the police to lie to suspects, but it’s allowed in the US. If an experienced criminal defense lawyer were to be present with you through such interviews, they could instruct you to not go along with unfair interrogation.
When a police officer gets you in the interrogation room on whatever pretext, those interviews can last hours and hours, and can grind you down. Once people find themselves in such a situation, sometimes, they falsely confess, simply to escape the stress of the situation. Sometimes, they believe that they could confess to bring the interrogation to an end, and then later take it back. They don’t realize that they can’t take it back.
When people are persuaded to come to a station house on a police officer’s statement that they aren’t an actual suspect, they don’t think that they could ask for a criminal defense lawyer at any time through the process. It doesn’t occur to them. Some states like Texas require that police interrogations be fully recorded and played before juries so that juries are able to gain insight into the context in which confessions are made. Tennessee is not one of those states.
It’s important to understand that if a police officer wants to talk to you in any way, for any reason, in connection with a criminal investigation, you should ask to have your criminal lawyer present. If you forget to ask for a lawyer at the beginning, you can always ask for one any time through the process.