By Attorney Russell B. Richelsoph
It is unexpected. You get a knock on your front door. You open the door and standing before you is a police officer. He or she could be in a uniform or could be in regular clothes. He politely, but firmly, informs you that he is conducting an investigation and would like to talk to you. You ask what it is regarding and he tells you that they are investigating a crime and they would like to ask you some questions. You at first agree, but once the questions get started you get a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach. The police officer has not said it, but you get the distinct feeling they believe that you are the person who committed the crime. What should you do?
Oftentimes, people in this very situation make the mistake of believing that the police officer wants to hear their side of the story, and if they are just able to explain it, the police officer will understand and the whole matter will just go away. This type of thinking is a mistake. The police are not asking you questions because they want to hear your side of the story. The police are asking you questions because they are trying to gather evidence that they can use against you. They may act sympathetic towards you and may even say they agree with you, but often this is a ploy to keep you talking. They are allowed to use trickery and deceit in order to get your statement.
Unfortunately, once a police officer makes up his mind that you are guilty, you are not going to talk them out of it. If you make the mistake of agreeing to go to the police station for an interview, expect a long and stressful session of questioning that will may end in your arrest and incarceration. Most police officers are trained interrogators who have been taught how to get you to incriminate yourself. Many police officers follow the rules when they interrogate you, but some don’t follow the rules. They may threaten to take your children away or put you in prison for a long time in order to get you to talk. They may promise you that things will go easier if you just tell them what they want to hear. It is very hard for the average person to resist this type of coercion. People have even confessed to crimes that it was later proven they could not have committed because of extreme coercion in a police interview.
So what should you do if you get that knock on your door? Politely tell the police officer, “I am not answering any questions without my attorney present.” If they arrest you, your first phone call should be to someone who can call us and arrange for one of our Criminal Department attorneys to go to the jail to talk to you. If you are not arrested, you should call us immediately so we can sit down and discuss your options with you.
Oftentimes, we tell our clients to remain silent. If we decide that you should not talk to the police officer, we will still convey the favorable information to the police officer. The benefit of this is that our statements to the police cannot be used against you in court.
Sometimes, we decide it is in your best interest to talk to the police. In that situation, we will go to the police station with you or have the police officer come to our office where we will be present for the entire meeting. Questioning by police is conducted very differently when you have an attorney by your side. When you have an attorney, the police interview is conducted much more politely, is shorter in duration, and is free from threats or coercion. Even dishonest police officers will follow the rules when an attorney is present.
I have been practicing criminal law since 1999 and my partner in the Criminal Department, Mark Andersen, has been practicing criminal law since 1997. We have both represented many people who have been questioned by the police. If you or a loved one are ever facing being questioned by the police, please call our Criminal Department at 480 344 4062 to immediately schedule an initial consultation. Once we meet with you and learn the facts of your situation, we will come up with a strategy that will work best for you. We excel at handling these matters professionally and discretely.