On so many occasions I have future clients appear at my doorstep to consult with me about a criminal matter in which the police have been involved and have asked them questions regarding the case. We all know the police have a job to do. They are responsible for getting to the bottom of an alleged criminal violation, but they don’t yet have all the pieces of the pie.
So the police show up at your house or your office with many questions because either someone has given them information that you may have been involved in this event, or maybe they have a description of a person who looks like you. Perhaps they even have video with you driving your car, with your license tag intact, leaving the scene of the event. Whatever the reason they show up, the police are there to ask questions.
What should you do? I have had so many clients tell me that they felt like they had done nothing wrong, so they signed on the dotted line and told their life story to the police, including answering the specific questions that the police asked them. Then they tell me again, “I didn’t feel as if I had done anything wrong and certainly I didn’t break the law, so I answered their questions. Why was I arrested?”
I always explain to them that it is true the police have a job to do and that job is tough at times. However, our Constitution and some very important case law handed down over the years by our United States Supreme Court grant you certain rights. Here the Fifth Amendment is in play. You never have to self-incriminate yourself. NEVER! “But I didn’t feel I did anything wrong, so I answered their questions.” Ah, but going into a building that doesn’t belong to you just to explore because the door was open and you remember visiting there when you were young with your parents to buy groceries is also a violation of law. You weren’t invited to come in and explore. You leave and the building somehow catches on fire and burns down. Witnesses tell the police and firefighters that a red Corvette pulled out of the parking area and gave the description of the occupants and the fatal blow: the tag information.
Police show up, you tell them that yes you were there but only to look around the building, that you had fond memories of buying groceries there from Old Man Smith and that you didn’t do anything wrong. They read you your rights, better known as Miranda rights, and you waive them and begin to write a statement and sign it. They arrest you and you are dumbfounded. You have a bail hearing and make bond and end up in my office charged with burglary and arson. First question I ask is did you talk to the police? and you say yes and again that you did nothing wrong and that you gave that statement to show the police you did nothing wrong.
The point is simple. Maybe you did nothing wrong in your own estimation, but that is not what determines if you violated the law. Please call me before you encounter the police alone. The police are our friends and they do have a tough job, but consulting with me may keep you from ever being charged, especially with the scenario given above. I am happy to talk to you anytime of the day or night with a simple phone call. My cell is always on, and unlike many others, I will answer it: 864.809.1226.
Steve Denton, Attorney