For someone with no experience dealing with the legal system it may be hard to know when to contact an attorney and what you should and should not say to police. With this in mind, here are a series of frequently asked questions on what you should do if investigated for a crime and when to contact an attorney.
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No, it is a constitutional right to seek legal counsel and a good way to make sure you are protected from incriminating yourself during the course of questioning or an investigation. In general if contacted by law enforcement, it is always a good idea to get in touch with an attorney as they will know what rights you posses and whether it is in your best interest to fully cooperate or not. Even if you are not the focus of an investigation it is often a good idea to speak with an attorney simply to make sure, again, that you don’t incriminate yourself and none of your legal rights are violated.
No, because refusal to consent to a search is irrelevant and can’t be used against somebody at trial. Whether or not the police think that you are hiding something doesn’t matter. The police need probable cause, a warrant, or a consent to search. Not giving consent is something that probably should be done more often than it is. It is kind of a phenomenon when people just consent to a search even though it is going to incriminate them. It could be they think they should cooperate and it will be better for them, but that is generally not the case. People should not be shy about asserting their constitutional rights especially to the right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
You can contact an attorney at any point even before you are charged. That is actually the most productive time to reach out to an attorney for their advice. For instance, if a person just had their home searched with a search warrant, but they weren’t charged yet, then a person should absolutely take the advice of counsel.
They should be able to get a copy of the search warrant, a copy of the affidavit that supports the search warrant, and seek professional advice. An attorney can tell them what this means, what’s going to happen, the worst case or best case scenarios, and whether or not that attorney can step in immediately to help them.
In any jurisdiction, it makes sense to seek the advice of counsel as early as possible if you have even any reason to believe that you might be in trouble with the law.
That they have a right to remain silent, they have a right to have an attorney present during questioning, and that they have a right to stop questioning at any point during the interrogation. Those are your Miranda rights. It is important to understand them and to have the courage to assert them if they choose to do so.
I would suggest that most of the time, it makes sense to invoke the right to remain silent if you don’t understand what is going on or you have any question in your mind that what comes out of your mouth may harm you.
Now, there are exceptions to that rule. Sometimes, it makes sense to speak to police and cooperate with them. The most important thing is to understand that you do have those rights.
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