Being questioned by the police, even under seemingly benign circumstances, can put you in a situation where you might be charged with a crime. You have the right to insist upon having a lawyer present, even if the cops are just questioning you as a witness. Follow these three tips to stay safe under police questioning.
You're Not There to Do Their job
Whether you're just a witness, the subject of an investigation, or someone in between those two categories, it's not your job to do the cops' jobs. Do not make leaps of logic and offer up theories you can back up. Better yet, refrain from telling them anything until someone from a criminal defense law office has shown up.
Understand the Rules They Play By
First, the police are under no obligation to quit yakking at you just because you've asserted your right to remain silent and to have counsel present. Under the law, they can be the chattiest folks in the world while they wait for your attorney to appear, as long as they stop asking questions. If you do slip up and engage them in conversation, you have every right to re-assert your right to remain silent.
Second, the cops are allowed to lie to you as an investigative technique. For example, they may inform you that you're just a witness when you are, in fact, the subject of the investigation. They can tell you lies about who said what or the evidence they've found, hoping that you'll slip up. Remember this: if they're still talking to you instead of cuffing you, there's still something they're trying to sort out.
Know the Rules You Have to Play By
While it's not your job to do their job, you can't get in the way of them doing their job. This is a crime known as obstruction, and the police can and do pursue charges against both witnesses and suspects for it. Obstruction occurs when you overtly get in the way of an investigation, such as throwing away a piece of evidence or lying to the cops. If you're in a situation where only a lie will save your skin, you have the right to avoid self-incrimination, though.
A major reason to contact a criminal law office for help is to make sure you're coloring inside the lines during questioning. Your attorney can tell you which questions to answer and how much you should answer.