Monday, January 11, 2016

What Should I Do if I'm Under Investigation by the Police?

If you believe that you are under police investigation, you should immediately do 2 things (and only 2 things): #1) shut up, and #2) call a lawyer.

The Police Say They Want Me to Come Down and Make a Statement.  Should I Talk to Them?

No.  You should never talk to the police without your attorney present.  Remember, the police are not your friends.  They're not interested in helping you out, they're interested in sending you to jail. They will manipulate you, intimidate you, threaten you, and wear you down. If you agree to an interview with police investigators, you will eventually either lie, confess (or you will say something that could be twisted and misconstrued as a partial confession), or else you will paint yourself info a corner, limiting the options that your attorney might have used to defend you.

Remember, if investigators had a solid case against you, they wouldn't need your statement. If the evidence clearly proved that you were guilty, you'd already be in jail. The fact that detectives want your statement should be a hint that the case against you is weak.  Do not help them collect stronger evidence.

Often, detectives are looking for some "missing piece" of the proverbial "puzzle".  They might not need you to admit that you pulled the trigger, for instance.  Maybe they just need to establish that you were driving a blue car last Tuesday.  It's not a crime to drive a blue car on a Tuesday, so you admit that harmless fact. Investigators will use that information to connect the dots and to build a circumstantial case against you.  If you don't know what the missing piece of the puzzle is, then you are wandering into a minefield by speaking to detectives.

What Can a Lawyer Do if I'm Under Investigation?

Experienced, local criminal defense attorneys understand how the criminal justice system works. They know what police investigators are looking for and they understand the kinds of tricks that detectives use to elicit incriminating statements from suspects.

Your lawyer can notify the police that he or she represents you, and that all further communications should be conducted through your legal counsel.  Police may not directly contact you or seek any statement from you once they know that you're represented by an attorney. Often, this is enough to drive the investigation into a dead end.

In some situations, your attorney can conduct his or her own investigation to gather evidence that might be favorable to your defense.  If your lawyer has solid, exculpatory evidence, he or she may be able to prevent the filing of criminal charges before your case snowballs into a bigger headache.

While the police investigation is ongoing, your lawyer can ensure that your rights are preserved. He or she can share favorable evidence with investigators, and provide peace of mind by helping you understand the process and your options.

But Won't it Look Suspicious if I Hire a Lawyer?

I always say that I'm not afraid of my clients "looking suspicious".  It's not a crime to "look suspicious".  I probably spend most of my day "looking suspicious".

I am afraid, though, of my clients talking themselves into trouble.  When you sit down with police and answer their questions, you are almost guaranteed to talk yourself into trouble.

What Can't a Lawyer Do?

If you're suspected of a crime, no attorney can prevent the police from investigating you. Police investigate reports of crimes. That's their job. It's my job to make their job more difficult. I can inform them that you will not be answering any questions, but I cannot prevent them from approaching your neighbor and asking what he heard or saw.

We can't stop witnesses from reporting suspected crimes or from making statements about you to the police. It is a crime to dissuade a witness from reporting a crime or from testifying in court.  If somebody is saying untrue things about you, we can perform an independent investigation to prove that the witness is lying or mistaken. If witnesses are saying things that they know are untrue, they may be guilty of perjury or liable for defamation in civil court.

If the police have a search warrant, we cannot prevent them from executing it.  In court, we can raise legal challenges to the warrant (why it was issued, how it was executed, what was seized, etc.), but no attorney can simply stop the police from searching your property if they have a warrant to do so.

If you or a loved one believes that you're under investigation for a suspected crime, call us for a free consultation.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.  We have offices in Fullerton, Santa Ana, Riverside and San Bernardino.  Thanks for reading.

Orange County Lawyer