Do I Have a Right to an Attorney During Police Questioning?Published: Jul 10, 2019 in Criminal Defense
Whether or not you have been arrested, if the police want to interview you, you have the right to contact an attorney. Many people are tempted to cooperate with the police because they think it will help them. They think they can talk their way out of trouble. This rarely works. It is far better to politely decline to answer any questions and ask to speak with an attorney – who will inform you of your rights during a criminal investigation – as soon as possible.
Not all police interviews take place after an arrest. In many situations, the police become aware a crime has been committed and must investigate to identify potential suspects. The police may wish to question you about a crime if you were a witness or they believe you were involved.
If the police call you or show up at your door asking for an interview, politely tell them that you are happy to cooperate at a future date when you have spoken with a lawyer.
Then, contact a criminal defense attorney. They can advise you on whether or not it is smart to speak with the police. If you agree to be questioned or are arrested, then you have a lawyer who can be present during any and all police interviews.
If you are arrested for a crime and booked into jail, then the police must inform you of your Miranda rights before they can question you.
These rights include:
- Remaining silent
- Anything you say being used against you in court
- Having an attorney
- Having an attorney provided for you if you cannot afford one on your own
After an arrest, when the police place you in an interview room, your answer to the first question should be, “I am invoking my right to remain silent. I want to contact my attorney.”
You also may say “I want my attorney,” or “I will not speak to you without an attorney present.” You must be very clear and unequivocal in your desire for an attorney. If you say, “I think I need a lawyer,” then the police – and a court – may not view this as invoking your right to an attorney.
Once you request a lawyer, the officers must stop questioning you. If the police do ask a question or say anything, do not respond.
The Constitution Protects Your Right to an Attorney
Your right to an attorney during criminal prosecutions is provided by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”
Prior to an arrest, whether or not you answer police questions is more a matter of free speech and privacy. It is your choice whether to answer or not, though there are a few exceptions. If an officer asks for your name and identification, you must provide your name and ID. After that, you are not required to answer an officer’s questions, and an officer cannot compel you to do so.
Do the Police Want to Question You?
If you have not been arrested but have been contacted by the police – or if you have been arrested for a crime – the best way to protect yourself is to call a criminal defense lawyer right away. You have the right to an attorney throughout a criminal investigation and case and should invoke this right as soon as you are able to.