Interviewer: How do I know if I’m under criminal investigation and been charged or will be charged with a crime?
Martin Kane: If you are contacted by a detective who asks to meet with you, it is extremely likely that you are being investigated or, more likely, they fully intend to arrest you when you show up. In the unlikely event they are contacting you as a witness, the detective will tell you what it’s all about and why he wants to speak with you. Unfortunately, I’ve had several clients who were contacted about a hit-and-run (that they absolutely knew did not involve them) and, when they went to the precinct to talk, they were immediately arrested. The short, simple answer is-never give any answers on the telephone. Tell the detective you’ll be happy to come down, get his name and telephone number, and IMMEDIATELY call a good criminal lawyer. If the precinct is in Queens, I would suggest you call a good Queens criminal lawyer with a lot of experience dealing with police in Queens. Your lawyer will contact the detective and find out in short order what the situation is.
Avoid Making Any Statements To The Police In The Absence Of Your Attorney
Interviewer: Am I obligated to meet with police or detectives if they call me, or can I request a lawyer first? Should I “be nice” and meet up?
Martin Kane: As I just stated, the police will often not tell you that they want you to come to the precinct to be arrested. You’re much less likely to show up voluntarily knowing you’re definitely going to be arrested. Sometimes, they don’t have enough evidence to make an arrest, but they hope you’ll make a statement that will solidify their case. In either situation, they certainly will encourage you to “give your side of the story.” And the sad truth is that almost anyone, no matter how sophisticated, will feel compelled to “give my side of the story.” “I only hit him because he hit me first.” “Yeah, I was driving the car, but I didn’t realize I hit someone.” “I only had two beers.” “I was in the car, but I didn’t know about the drugs under the seat.”
Most people know that they don’t have to talk to the police, that they “have a right to remain silent” and that “anything they say can and will be used against them.” But the urge to defend yourself can be overwhelming, particularly if you think your explanation might end the whole thing.
DON’T DO IT. Under no circumstances should you make any statement at all to the police. Making a statement can never be helpful to you. The best you can hope for is that it doesn’t hurt you, but it usually will. Your explanation will never lead to the police changing their mind about arresting you. Many, if not most times, your statement will hurt you in ways you can’t anticipate and may even create a case that doesn’t exist without your statement.
If you think you have the fortitude to resist the temptation to tell your side without an attorney, be my guest. Just remember that you are dealing with a detective who is well-trained to convince you to speak to him “off the record.” It’s not. You may think it doesn’t count if you don’t write or sign anything. It does. The detective could even conceivably fabricate a statement (but we all know that police never lie, don’t we?)
Letting An Attorney Represent You Is The Wisest Course Of Action.
You are much better off getting the detective’s name and telephone number and then calling an experienced Queens criminal lawyer. When your attorney calls the detective and says he represents you, something magical happens by operation of law. Once you are represented by counsel, the detective is no longer allowed to question you. You don’t even have to refuse to speak-he can’t even ask you.
If you call me after the detective contacts you, no matter what kind of case, I will be the one who calls back the detective. At that point, the detective knows he is never getting any statement from you. You are not going to make his case for him. My first question is whether he wants to arrest you. He won’t lie to me and, if he does intend to arrest you, I’ll work out a convenient time and date to surrender. This is important because we want to set a date and time that will get you before the judge on the same day you surrender. It’s not fun to be held overnight before you even get to see the judge. Please be aware, no matter what some misguided attorney may tell you, that there is nothing I or any other attorney can say or do that will keep you from being arrested. The detective is not there to evaluate evidence and act as a judge. If he feels he has the evidence (usually a statement from the complainant), he is going to arrest you, period.
That brings us to the other possible scenario. Occasionally, when I routinely ask the detective if he wants to arrest my client, he will become a little flustered and say something like “not at this time” or “we just want to talk to him about something.” At that time, I will know that I’ve earned my modest fee in spades. Naturally, I will decline his kind invitation to speak with my client and I’ll inform the detective that he is not to speak with my client or put him in a lineup without my permission. I will also know that the detective doesn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest and is hoping to get an incriminating statement. This just happened to me a few days ago. My client was accused of molesting a very young child, a charge he was totally innocent of and which infuriated him. If he had not called me, he would have accepted the officer’s invitation, indignantly marched down to the precinct, and promptly said something which would have allowed the detective to arrest him for a crime he didn’t commit. After I called and went through my routine, the detective said he’s not arresting my client “at this time,” which means “not ever.”
Contact The Law Office of Martin D. Kane at (718) 793-5700 to set up an initial consultation with an attorney.