During a criminal investigation, police may ask you questions whether you’re under arrest or not. But you don’t have to answer. Well, at least not most questions, and not initially. You must provide basic identifying information, such as your name and date of birth. If law enforcement asks you additional questions, you have the right to simply say “no” or remain silent, but the questions will likely continue until you specifically request to speak with a lawyer. This is true at any stage of the process.
The Fifth Amendment
The fifth amendment to the United States Constitution upholds a person’s right to remain silent. As such, invoking this right is often referred to as “pleading the fifth.” This amendment, which was proposed to congress in 1789, holds that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
But the fifth amendment is not without limits. For starters, commands and orders are not questions and should not be treated as such. For example, if an officer asks where you were the night a crime was committed, you have a right to plead the fifth. You do not, however, have the right to remain in your vehicle if an officer is ordering you to get out.
Can I Refuse a Request to Go to the Station for Questioning?
In short, yes. If you are a suspect, however, investigators will likely come to your work or home, and you may be arrested on the spot. A better idea is to schedule an appointment for later in the day or the next day, after you’ve had a chance to consult with a skilled Boston criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can even accompany you to the station, and can provide you with additional details about what to expect. Attempting to “go it alone” can be a big mistake when it comes to criminal investigations.
Should I Ask Police if I’m a Suspect?
Coming right out and asking police if you’re a suspect can be a very bad idea. For starters, they have absolutely no obligation to be completely honest during an interrogation. They might even lie to trick you. Further, the question itself can be incriminating. Avoid asking this question; ask for an attorney instead. Remember, anything that you say can be used against you.
Talking to police can be scary. They can be intimidating enough on their own, but you might also fear retaliation from those involved in the crime for “ratting them out,” talking too much, or even just providing a witness statement. Having an experienced MH defense attorney by your side can provide you with legal protection and the peace of mind to move forward. Continue reading