A Look at Interrogation and Having a Lawyer

Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorney Blog:  A Look at Police Interrogation and Why it Makes Sense to Exercise Your Right to an Attorney
It is a question we often receive in our office.  I have been contacted by a Detective and he/she wants to interview me as a possible suspect in a criminal investigation, should I talk to them?  Do I need a lawyer?  To answer that question, we will take a look at some of the parts of a police interrogation and it will be apparent that you should not speak with a detective when you are the subject of an interrogation until you have spoken with an attorney about the situation first.

  1. They just asked me to voluntarily come into ask some questions what could be the harm:  Getting a suspect to come into the office to answer a detective’s questions is one of the oldest tricks in the book.  Law enforcement does not have any obligation to tell you when you are a suspect in an investigation.  As a matter of fact, many times they will act like they want to ask questions of you as a possible witness.  This is all done in an attempt to lower your guard and make the situation seem routine and non-intimidating.  Additionally, and very importantly, if you come into a questioning session voluntarily you are not in custody.  If you are not in custody, then the police do not have to advise you of your Miranda warnings, which include your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney.  The police know if they don’t have to read these warnings, the questioning seems more routine and the suspect will be more likely to provide wanted information.
  2. I can handle the police what evidence could they have against me anyway: One of the biggest mistakes clients make.  Let’s perfectly clear here.  The police do not have to tell you the truth and can make things up to trick you into saying things that didn’t happen.  They can tell you they have a video of you committing the crime, that you left a fingerprint at the scene, that your DNA is all over the place; and that can all be FALSE.  When people start hearing all this evidence the police “have” they start second guessing what they know to be true and start saying things to fill in the blanks that isn’t true.  Now, your caught.  When those blanks are filled in with things that aren’t true then the police have now made you look deceptive and dishonest which will work to their advantage to a jury.  Additionally, if you are interrogated hours on end(some interrogations have literally lasted more than 12 hours) and your being told over and over again they have all this overwhelming evidence, many times people give false confessions because they believe there is no hope.
  3. I know I didn’t do anything wrong so I will go in and set the record straight without an attorney: This maybe 100% true, however, with all of the methods of interrogation that are allowed, it is still not safe.  You can answer a question a certain way and if you are the suspect, despite your innocence, it may be taken in a way that is twisted to be used against you.
  4. The detective seems nice on the phone: That may very well be.  Some of the best interrogators use friendly techniques to create comfort and trust and talk people into confessions.  Additionally, the nice detective may not conduct the interview or may stop part way through the interview and turn the interview over to a much more aggressive interrogator.

So, how can a lawyer help you navigate this?  First and foremost, the attorney will work with you to determine whether it makes sense for you to give a statement.  Many times the best option is to just remain silent.  If the attorney decides it makes sense for you to speak, they will be there with you to navigate the pitfalls and make sure your rights are protected.  The lawyer can help you avoid the pitfalls of false evidence.  For example, if the detective says we have surveillance video of you committing the crime, the defense attorney can stop the interrogation and insist on seeing that video prior to any further questioning.  If the detective is making that up he/she will obliviously not be able to produce it and any line of questioning about that “evidence” will be stopped.  Same goes with fake DNA or fake fingerprints.
Additionally, a lawyer can help you prepare for questioning if they decide you should cooperate.  This includes focusing on the question being asked and not elaborating with facts that could be twisted to be used against you.  If you have an aggressive interrogator the attorney can stand up for you and ask the detective to either act with a better demeanor or just terminate the interrogation altogether.
Lastly, the attorney can counsel you.  They can counsel you on whether to give a statement, if you do give a statement they can counsel you during the statement.  If you have a question about the detective’s question then you can ask the lawyer before answering.
In conclusion, many a case is drastically impacted by the interrogation process.  If you are being asked to give a statement and there is any question as to whether or not you are a suspect, then you should speak with an attorney first.  The attorneys at Banks & Brower have experience handling thousands of criminal cases and can help you navigate the investigative process.  You can reach us 24 hours 7 days a week at 317-870-0019.
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