What to Do If You Are Questioned by the Police
In the U.S. criminal justice system, we are all innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If you have ever been interviewed or interrogated by the police, however, it may not have been apparent that this was foremost on the officer’s agenda. The fact is that officers of the law can become overzealous in their efforts, and this is why understanding your rights from the outset is in your best interests. Even a criminal charge can negatively affect your reputation, but a conviction can have lasting repercussions that are difficult – if not impossible – to overcome.
If the police call you in for an interview, it typically means that they are doing research into a crime that they either have reason to believe was committed or that they are investigating. This process often involves interviews, interrogations, and even polygraph tests (aka lie detector tests). Understanding the basics in relation to these procedures will help ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. The fact is that the stakes are extremely high; proceed with caution.
The Detective Interviewing You Is at a Decided Advantage
If you are being questioned about a crime, the detective who is interviewing you has a file in front of him or her that outlines exactly what is known about the crime in question. You, on the other hand, will likely have no idea about the contents of that file, and this puts you at a disadvantage. Further, the detective questioning you is trained at leading interviewees like you in exactly the direction that he or she would like you to go. Finally, the stress associated with being interrogated by the police can be overwhelming, which leaves you that much more vulnerable to the interrogation tactics employed.
If you are interviewed by the police, you have certain inalienable rights, which include the right to legal counsel and the right to remain silent. It is in your best interests to exercise these rights. Anything that you say to your interviewer can – and likely will – be used against you. Requesting that you have an attorney with you during the interview is well within your legal rights, and it is not a sign of quilt – no matter what the interviewing officer would have you believe.
The polygraph deserves closer inspection. If the detective interviewing you suggests that you take a polygraph test to prove your innocence, it is important to understand that you are not required to prove your innocence. Generally, consenting to a polygraph is typically ill-advised for a variety of reasons:
- You are not legally required to do so.
- The results of your polygraph are not admissible in court.
- Your results, therefore, cannot prove your innocence.