There may come a time when police officers—or sheriff’s deputies, or the North Carolina SBI—want to ask you questions as part of a criminal investigation. The most important advice any North Carolina criminal defense lawyer can give you is this: You do not have to answer their questions. In many cases, it is against your best interests to respond to police questions.
At Speaks Law Firm, we sometimes work with clients who reasoned, “I’m innocent. I have nothing to hide. The police will be suspicious if I don’t talk to them.” The fact is that the police will be suspicious whether you answer their questions or not. Innocent people often will make statements that investigators consider incriminating. Many of our clients who decided to talk frankly with police have found themselves in much worse trouble after the interview.
Remember These Guidelines for Dealing with Police Questioning
The one thing everyone remembers from watching cop shows on television is the first line of the Miranda warning: “You have the right to remain silent.” That right doesn’t take effect only when you receive the warning. You have that right whenever you interact with investigators from any level of government. If saying things may get you in trouble—and that risk is almost always present—then it is better to remain silent.
It’s also important to remember these points about a police interrogation in North Carolina:
- Attitude counts. Be polite and respectful of law enforcement officers, even as you’re being unhelpful. If you are arrogant or offensive, eventually someone will lose his temper, and that increases the risk of a verbal confrontation where you might say more than is wise.
- You don’t have to identify yourself by name and address (but maybe you should). If you choose not to identify yourself, the law enforcement officers have the legal right to detain you until they can determine your identify and check for a prior criminal record. If you believe that giving your name and address would get you into further trouble, then you can tell the officer that you decline to answer any questions without your lawyer present.
- Get a lawyer. If you have an attorney who represents you, answer questions only in his presence and after conferring with him. If you do not have an attorney, you can request one, and questioning must stop until your North Carolina public defender is present.
- Document your refusal to answer questions. If you are asked to sign a form that your Miranda rights have been read to you, write on the form that you do not want to be questioned. Not all interrogations are recorded by video or sound recordings. If your interview is not recorded, it’s possible that court decisions will be made based on the fallible memories of the investigators. Your written statement that you did not answer questions can become critical evidence.
- Police can—and do—lie. Case law has determined that law enforcement officers can mislead or trick suspects in order to get them to respond to questions. For instance, a state trooper can say that your friend being interviewed in another room is blaming you for a criminal act, and then ask you to give your side of the story. Refuse to be baited.
Remember that Speaks Law Firm Is Here for You
If you have been accused of a crime in New Hanover County, or even if you were brought in merely for questioning, it is vital that you hire an experienced Wilmington criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Clarke Speaks and his defense team at Speaks Law are ready to stand beside you as your legal representatives. We can explain your rights and make sure you understand lawyers’ jargon. Call us today at 910-341-7570 (locally) or 877-593-4233 (toll-free) to see how we can help you.