There are few things more potentially stressful than being interrogated by the police. Even if they tell you that you are not being suspected of a crime, there is the fear that you will say something that the police will eventually use against you. That is why you should remember these things that you can do to protect your rights if you ever find yourself in a police interrogation:
- Ask if you are free to leave
- One of the most important things to establish when you talk to the police is whether you are under arrest, or if you are free to leave the conversation. This is because many of your Constitutional liberties only apply when you are in police custody, including your right to an attorney and your right to remain silent. Additionally, if you speak to the police and you are not in custody, your words are presumed to be voluntary and thus not protected by the Fifth Amendment, so make sure you know your situation before you start to talk to the police. Also keep in mind that you can be in police custody even while not in the police station; the key factor is whether you are free to go as you please, not whether you are in a location owned by the police department.
- Get a lawyer
- There is an assumption that only guilty people will get a lawyer when speaking to the police, but this could not be farther from the truth. The fact of the matter is that you never know what information you give the police could spur them to act against you, even if they ultimately determine you did nothing wrong. The sooner you bring in an attorney, the easier it will be to protect your rights.
- Invoke your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination
- In many ways, the easiest way to deal with a police interrogation is to simply say nothing. However, there is a difference between just keeping quiet and invoking your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. If you do not tell the police, specifically, that you intend to invoke your Fifth Amendment rights, they can just keep pressuring you until you crack and speak. Once you make it clear that you are invoking your rights and will not speak to them without an attorney present, the interrogation is over.
- Be careful about what you sign
- A police interrogation can be a nerve-wracking experience, and few people are more aware of that than the police themselves. They have no problem exploiting that fear to convince you to sign things or give consent to things you normally would not if you were in your normal frame of mind. This may include a waiver of your Miranda rights, which would allow them to interrogate you without having a lawyer present, or a typed-out version of any testimony you give them. Make sure you read any documents you are given, and have them reviewed by a lawyer, before you sign them, lest you accidentally hand them a signed confession for a crime you did not commit.
- The police will lie to you
- Legally speaking, the police cannot use threatening or coercive tactics against a suspect to get them to testify or confess to a crime. However, it is legal for them to trick suspects into giving up potentially harmful information, and they have no obligation to be honest about what evidence they have or what other witnesses they have been able to interrogate. Thus, take anything you hear from the police in an interrogation with a grain of salt, because while they cannot threaten or torture you into talking, deceiving you into opening your mouth is generally fine as far as the law is concerned.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a criminal offense, you will need legal counsel to help you preserve your rights and work to get the best possible outcome for your matter. A New York criminal defense lawyer, who is experienced in handling criminal cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Suffolk County criminal defense attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.