The Police Contacted Me, What Should I Do?
It’s stressful to be contacted by the police. If you were contacted by the police, it was most likely a detective who knocked on your door or gave you a call.
Although some detectives can be open with you and will say whether they believe that you are a suspect, victim, or eyewitness to a crime, sometimes they don’t provide you with any information. Instead, they will just say that they’d like you to come to the precinct to talk.
I’m going to discuss what you should not do and what you should do if you’ve been contacted by the police.
What To Avoid
By far, the biggest risk when a person goes to the police station to speak with a detective is that the person will provide the police with incriminating evidence.
Most people who speak to detectives don’t intend to incriminate themselves, yet many do incriminate themselves, even when they think they didn’t say anything that was incriminating.
A big reason why it’s easy to unwittingly incriminate yourself when speaking to the police is that you have no idea what evidence the police may have against you, and you don’t know what specific information the police need to fill the holes in their case. The information the police might need could seem insignificant and not incriminating to you, but if you combine the information you provide with the evidence they already have, the police could end up getting a slam dunk case against you.
A Bad Scenario
For instance, I’ve seen many cases where the police had holes in their case regarding the identity of the suspect, but the defendant ends up giving them the evidence they need to prove the case. For example, let’s say there is an assault case where a suspect is wearing a unique outfit—a brightly colored jacket with very specific words on it—when he assaults a person on the street. The victim calls the police and gives a description of the suspect and the unique outfit. The police go to the scene and look for video cameras in the area. The incident is not on video, but they find video footage from blocks away that shows a person wearing the exact unique outfit. A detective on the case thinks he recognizes the person but isn’t sure.
The detective asks the suspect to come to the precinct. At the precinct, the detective says nothing to the suspect about the assault or that they are looking for someone who has that unique outfit. Instead, the detective is nice and talkative with the suspect, and the first thing he does is pull out a printed screenshot of the suspect wearing the unique outfit, and he casually asks the suspect if that is him, and he doesn’t act that the question is that significant. The suspect has no context for the question and doesn’t see how it’s incriminating to say that’s him since it doesn’t show him committing a crime, so he says, “yeah, that’s me.”
With that seemingly harmless admission, the suspect has filled in the identity gap of the government’s investigation, and therefore he would very likely be arrested and face criminal charges.
The takeaway from this is that you should not talk to the police because you don’t know what evidence they might have against you. You might think that you are helping yourself, but in reality, you are just handing the prosecution its case on a silver platter.
An exception to this rule is if you are the victim of a crime, you know that there is no way that you could in be implicated, and you want the perpetrator to be prosecuted. I’m not going to sit here are say that if someone tried to murder you, you shouldn’t speak to the police about what happened to you. For obvious reasons, victims of actual crimes have the right to seek justice. What I am saying, though, is that if you don’t know whether you might be the suspect or you know you are the suspect, then don’t say anything. The government has the burden to prove its case, and you have the right to remain silent. You shouldn’t help them prosecute you.
What To Do
If the police want to speak with you or ask for you to come to the police precinct, you should ask them if you are going to be arrested. If they say they are not going to arrest you, then say that you are not going to go to the precinct and you are not going to speak with them.
If the police say that they are going to arrest you, then you should go to the precinct for several reasons.
First, if they are going to arrest you, you won’t be able to avoid that by not going to the precinct. Instead, the police will arrest you on their terms. So, they might arrest you at work, at home in the middle of the night, or anywhere else that is inconvenient and embarrassing for you. By going to the precinct, you can coordinate the arrest with your schedule.
Second, if you are going to be charged with an offense in which the judge could set bail, you increase the chances of the judge releasing you if you turn yourself in at the precinct. A judge will set bail if he or she thinks you are a flight risk and will not return to court. If your attorney can tell the judge that you knew of the charges against you, yet you turned yourself in to the police to face and fight the charges, it shows the judge that you are not a flight risk and will instead show up to court to fight your case.
Need Help? Contact an NYC Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If the police contacted you and asked you to go to the police station, I can help. Under the 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution, once the police knows that you have counsel, they are not allowed to question you. When a client retains me, I reach out to the police to let them know that my client is represented by me and should not be questioned by the police.
As your lawyer, I can also gather information from the detective so that I can break down for you what the next steps in your case will be. If you’ve been contacted by the police, give me a call for a free consultation. We’ll talk and figure out the best path forward.