Every seasoned criminal defense attorney has often lamented the fact that a client simply provided police officers and other criminal investigators with information that he or she was not compelled to divulge.
In other words, questions and other police requests or demands are frequently responded to voluntarily by people, with the result being that evidence is compiled and often used against them subsequently.
Indeed, it is understandable that a person being questioned by the police can voluntarily divulge self-incriminating information. After all, being in the close proximity of police officers can be — and flatly is — a frightening experience for many people. Uniformed officers with weapons and other badges of authority can seem overtly intimidating, and persons being questioned often believe that they are legally compelled to comply with all police directives.
Sometimes that is indeed the case, but it often isn’t.
In fact, people often err in their assumptions regarding how they must respond when in the presence of police officers.
Here’s a general guideline: Say as little as possible to any criminal law authorities fishing for responses that could legally incriminate you in any manner. As one commentator on citizen-police interaction notes in a media piece on the subject, a smart answer to any police request for information is, “I would like to speak with my attorney prior to answering any questions.”
Another noteworthy point from that commentator concerns police searches. The bottom line: Make police follow proper guidelines by first securing a warrant to engage in a search. Consenting to a search essentially equates to a waiver of legal rights.
And this is important, too, especially when police questioning relates to a federal matter. As the above-cited writer notes, federal and state laws and related penalties can be very different. A federal drug trafficking allegation or charge, for example, is a highly singular matter that calls for aggressive representation from a proven federal criminal defense attorney.