If the police are questioning you, it is most likely because you are a suspect in a criminal investigation, or believed to have information regarding a crime that has been committed.
Either way, the experience can be extremely disturbing.
In the midst of it all, it is important to remember that what you say can be used to build a case against you, or the person(s) you are being questioned about.
What follows here is a discussion of what you should do whenever you are questioned by the police.
#1 Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent
The police have the legal authority to question you. However, with very few exceptions, you have no legal obligation to answer.
While it is recommended that you cooperate with the police as much as possible, the Fifth Amendment to The Constitution gives you the right to remain silent, and it would be in your best interest to do just that – here’s why:
- Anything you say can be used against you in court.
- What you say may be reported inaccurately.
- Even if you are innocent of the crime in question, you may otherwise incriminate yourself.
- You risk of admitting guilt without getting any benefit in return. When you admit to guilt too soon, you may lose your chance to secure a plea bargain, if indeed you need one.
To invoke your right to remain silent, stay calm and state clearly that you do not want to answer the questions. Say this as many times as you need to. Then contact an attorney as soon as you have the opportunity to do so.
#2 Refuse Consent to Any Search or Seizure
The police are unlikely to advise you that The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution gives you the right to refuse being searched.
Essentially, you have the right to refuse to consent to a search of your body, home or personal property, unless the police have been authorized to do so by the courts.
So, unless the officers show you a court authorized search warrant, you can refuse to consent to any search of your body, home, vehicle or property, even if they insist.
All you have to do is say “no”. Make it clear that you do not consent to being searched. Then contact a lawyer as soon as you can.
#3 Stay Calm and Cooperate
Regardless of whether you are stopped by an officer just to be questioned or to be searched, it is important to keep calm and cooperate as much as possible – while not answering any questions or consenting to any search.
Under no circumstances should you lie to the police, become confrontational or physically interfere with their search. If you do so, you may be charged with obstruction of justice and/or assault and battery on an officer of the law, which are serious offenses.
Being questioned by the police can be overwhelming. You may really feel powerless and compelled to do and say whatever they ask. But keeping these things in mind can help you preserve your rights until you are able to speak with an attorney.