Imagine going about your day, and your telephone rings with a number you don’t know. You ignore it to voicemail and see a new message ding. You listen and it's Detective so-and-so with your local police department asking for a callback. Should you? Do you have to? What will happen if you don’t? This can be a common situation.
Police generally will contact you for 1 of 2 reasons. Either you are a witness to a crime, or you are a suspect in a criminal investigation. Both situations may warrant reaching out to a lawyer prior to returning that call.
If you’re a witness to a crime, the police may want your version of events or any photos/videos you have of an incident. They may want a statement; they may need more information than you’re comfortable providing. You can never be forced to speak with police beyond providing identification. Most of the time, if you’re a witness, meeting or speaking with the police is not a dire dilemma. However, if you’re not sure that you should, or you’re uncomfortable, meet with a lawyer, discuss the situation, and get the full picture of what you’re required to do in that circumstance. A lawyer can help you navigate your role as a witness.
More importantly, if you’re a potential suspect, you should not return the call without speaking to a lawyer first. In my experience, cops call suspects, or visit suspects, in 2 situations. They either have probable cause to arrest and want to confirm what they think they know, or they lack probable cause and are trying to get some blanks filled in to get there where they can then arrest you. In any event, they are not trying to help you. You are not going to talk yourself out of the situation. Your ”cooperation” is meaningless. Call a lawyer. Do not speak with law enforcement in this situation. If they already have the required probable cause for arrest, talking with them will just give the government more evidence they can use to convict you. If they don’t have the required amount of evidence, and you don’t speak with them, you may avoid the trap altogether. You always have a right to remain silent.
What if you answer the phone on accident and they’re on the line? Don’t panic. This is easy. Tell them you will have to call them back and call your lawyer immediately. Don’t answer any questions. Don’t stay on the phone. It is not a crime to hang up on the investigator. Avoid their traps. Get a callback number and their name. I will call the detective back for you. I will run interference on your behalf. I will tell you whether we should answer any questions or not. 99.9% of the time, we will not.
I’ve handled too many serious cases, where if my client had just called me before answering questions, we could have avoided the entire arrest, charge, and trial altogether. If you or a loved one is in this situation, please contact me right away and I will make sure the police do not contact you any longer.