The average person might manage to get through an entire lifetime without ever being questioned by a law enforcement officer in the context of a criminal investigation – at least not as a suspect in that investigation. Unfortunately, if you are not one of them, you can be at a significant, and potentially damaging, disadvantage when the police come knocking on your door asking to speak to you. For most law-abiding citizens the natural instinct is to cooperate with the police. After all, if you didn’t commit a crime or do anything wrong, why shouldn’t you talk to the police, right? Wrong. There is actually a list of reasons why you should not talk to the police. You are likely also thinking “Won’t I look guilty if I ask for a criminal defense attorney before talking to the police?” While this train of thought is understandable, it can also be detrimental to you. The bottom line is that you should never talk to the police about an ongoing criminal investigation without consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney first.
Interacting with Law Enforcement
A wide range of factors go into determining how you view law enforcement agencies in general, and interactions with law enforcement officers specifically. If, however, you were raised to believe that the police are who you turn to for help and that “officer friendly” always has good intentions, then you probably cannot imagine refusing a request to talk to a police officer. It is crucial, therefore, to understand how law enforcement officers think, particularly a detective who is investigating a criminal case. For a detective, people fall into one of three very narrow categories: victim, lead, or a possible suspect. If you are the victim of a crime, of course, it is fine to talk to a police officer; however, if you are anything but a victim, you should not agree to talk unless you have first consulted with an attorney.
For a detective, anyone and everyone is a potential suspect. Experience has taught them that criminals come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. This is the lens through which they view every conversation and interaction with the general public. When a police officer asks things such as “Would you mind talking to me about what you saw?” or “I just want to clarify a few things if that’s o.k. with you?”…what he/she really means is “I want to determine if you are lying about anything” or “I already think you are lying about something and I want to catch you in an outright lie.”
Now Is the Time to Protect Yourself
All too often a well-meaning individual agrees to talk to the police assuming that if they didn’t do anything wrong they have nothing to hide. During that conversation, something is misunderstood or the individual is unable to provide a satisfactory answer for a specific detail and the next thing you know he/she morphs from witness to suspect. Once that happens, it becomes much harder to go back to being viewed as a witness. The time to protect yourself is before you become a suspect. You have a constitutional right to remain silent; however, you must exercise that right for it to protect you.
Looking Guilty – Does It Really Matter?
The biggest concern, and largest obstacle, for the average person’s thinking process, is the idea that by insisting on having an attorney present when speaking to the police they will appear guilty. Remember two things if you are concerned about this. First, as mentioned earlier, most law enforcement officers already consider you to be a potential suspect, so insisting on consulting a criminal defense attorney before talking to them doesn’t really change anything. Second, whether you really are guilty or not, if you end up being charged with the crime, you will likely have done potentially irreparable harm to your defense by talking to the police without an attorney present. Therefore, you need to remember that having the police think you are guilty is definitely the lesser of two evils when the other option is for you to be convicted of the crime because you damaged your defense by talking to the police without a lawyer present.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.