What Should I Do if I’m Under Investigation?
If you discover that you are being investigated by law enforcement, you should contact your criminal defense lawyer immediately, before you speak with any police or investigators.
- If I don’t talk to them, they will think I’m guilty;
- If I hire an attorney, they will think I’m guilty;
- If I talk to them, this will go away;
- I can talk my way out of this;
- I don’t have anything to hide, so why wouldn’t I talk to them? Or even
- I support the police and I trust them.
While these may sound like reasonable reactions, law enforcement does not view it the same way.
Why Shouldn’t I Talk to the Police?
If police or investigators want to question you about a crime, they are not trying to clear your name – they are gathering evidence to prosecute you and anyone else they suspect is involved.
If police want to speak with you about a crime, there are three possibilities:
- They believe you are guilty, but do not have probable cause (evidence) to charge you. They will entice you to make incriminating statements or contradictions – when you oblige them with an interview, they may seek a search warrant, and have you arrested based in part on the statements that you made;
- They believe you are guilty, and they already have probable cause (evidence) to charge you. They are going to cite or arrest you either way, but they want the opportunity to gather more evidence or elicit incriminating or inconsistent statements to build their case against you; or
- They think that you may be a witness. They will often threaten or insinuate that if do not cooperate you will be arrested. If you choose to speak with them they will be looking for any possible charges that they can make based on what you tell them during the interview. If you have criminal charges hanging over your head, they have leverage to get you to testify in their favor.
What Do I Need to Know About Police Interrogations?
First, never agree to an interrogation or interview with law enforcement without first talking to your criminal defense attorney. During police questioning:
- Police can and will lie to you about evidence that they have or about what other people have told them;
- Police will threaten you with criminal charges or enhanced charges if you don’t say what they want to hear;
- Your interrogation will be recorded with high-definition video or audio. Even if it’s not, your statements will still be admissible against you at trial;
- Police are trained in aggressive interrogation techniques. You are not. Specifically, many detectives are trained in the “Reid Technique,” a coercive interrogation routine that is designed to make people confess to crimes. There are many documented accounts of folks confessing to crimes they didn’t commit while under psychological pressure of police interrogation.
- Watch out for any “pre-text” phone call. Law enforcement will often have the complaining witness of alleged sexual offenses call you in an effort to gather incriminating statements or admissions. The complaining witness will receive a quick training session and script to use. These calls usually take place at a police station, are monitored by law enforcement, and recorded with professional equipment. Many folks end up with serious criminal charges after being duped into these phone calls.
What Can My Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyer Do if I Am Under Investigation?
We will notify all law enforcement agencies involved that you have representation, and from that point forward all communications will be through my office.
You do not have to speak to the police without the advice of counsel. The investigation is a critical stage in your case, where, depending on the circumstances of your case, we might have the opportunity to prevent charges from being filed, turn a felony into a misdemeanor, direct law enforcement to favorable evidence, or negotiate a non-criminal resolution.
If charges are ultimately filed against you, we can often arrange for a quick “cite and release” without going through an arrest and jail booking. Throughout the process we will keep you reasonably informed on the status of the investigation and make sure that you understand your rights.
Why does it matter? Just having an attorney at this stage of your case lets the police know that they need to be above-board in their methods when dealing with you. It lets them know that, if they choose to charge you, they better have sufficient probable cause.
It also provides a buffer between you and law enforcement – anything you say can be used against you, but, with few exceptions, what your lawyer says is not going to be admissible against you.
Won’t the Police Think I’m Guilty if I Hire a Defense Attorney?
Police and investigators want you to think this, but most officers will admit off the record that a suspect should have gotten a lawyer before any questioning.
Retaining an attorney is not a sign of guilty, it is a sign of good common sense. If a cop is called in for questioning, you can guarantee that they will have an attorney with them, often provided for free by their union.
Oregon Criminal Investigations Lawyer in Clackamas, Washington, and Yamhill County.
I cannot stress enough that the best time for an attorney to get involved in your case is before charges have been filed – you may be able to avoid charges altogether, but, if you are charged, your attorney may have the opportunity to: 1) prevent you from inadvertently providing evidence to the police; and 2) investigate your case as the police are investigating, so you are not playing catch up as the prosecutor gets your case ready for trial.