So the police want to talk to you. They have an interest in information you have. They are investigating something; maybe you know what they are investigating, maybe you don't. Maybe you are innocent, guilty, or something in between. Regardless, no matter the situation, you should never speak with law enforcement without an attorney present.
Don't Say Anything.
When police begin an investigation, they begin by gathering evidence and taking witness statements. As they further their investigation, they will often decide to question suspects, usually in the form of "knock and talk" contacts. This is just what it sounds like: police knock on your door, you answer, and they begin to ask you questions. This is perfectly legal, and while officers can be intimidating, no person has an obligation to answer these questions or say anything.
Often, clients come to us with criminal matters and tell us they are innocent, but when we receive discovery from law enforcement we find statements made by our clients, which often complicate matters, especially for innocent clients. As a former prosecuting attorney, I can tell you one thing for sure: no one ever made their situation better by speaking with law enforcement without an attorney.
It has never happened. There is never any situation in which someone suspected of a crime, speaking without an attorney, was necessary and helpful. And certainly, I know of no situation in which a suspected person was able to talk an officer out of suspecting them.
Why wouldn't police want you to speak with a legal advisor? Those reasons are obvious, of course. But when officers are at your door, it can be uncomfortable and difficult to turn them away.
What You Should Do Instead
You should always be polite and courteous to law enforcement--they're just doing their job. And certainly making an enemy of an officer is not a wise or prudent decision. But it is also not your job to investigate their case for them. They have detectives, investigators, other agencies to work with, laboratories at their disposal, crime-fighting tools, DNA evidence, background check systems, databases, and the list goes on and on. They do not need you to help them.
Instead, you should politely decline and respond, "I cannot answer any questions or speak to you about this without my attorney present." If they continue to badger you, that should be a red flag: you are very likely a suspect and they are trying to get enough information to get a warrant for your arrest or a search warrant for your property. There is no information that cannot be conveyed later through your attorney. Officers prefer to talk to you without attorneys present because you are more likely to speak freely and answer their questions. It's also easier for them to, unintentionally of course, trick you into making statements against your interest.
They Cannot Make You Talk. Ever.
No matter what, even if officers have a warrant, they cannot make you answer questions. The Fifth Amendment protects all Americans against self-incrimination. This means you cannot be forced to testify against yourself in court, or out of court. Answering questions when you have been arrested, or when a crime is being investigated, is not something you can be forced to do.
The Sixth Amendment requires that you have the opportunity to speak with and be represented by an attorney if you are being charged, arrested, and/or prosecuted. You must unequivocally state that you want a lawyer and will not be answering any questions without one present. A good response to law enforcement in this situation is, "I will not speak with you. I am invoking my right to counsel. I would like to contact my lawyer." This should be repeated every time law enforcement attempts to ask you questions or speak with you.
If you have questions, please contact us and we will be happy to help. Most importantly, please remember your rights. Our Constitution protects us from government activity and intervention into our lives, and you should never waive those rights.