Many people are under the impression that they don’t need an attorney until they’ve been arrested or charged with a crime. However, if you have been contacted by law enforcement as a suspect or a “person of interest” in a criminal investigation, you should contact an attorney to fully preserve all of your rights. Similarly, if you learn from friends, family members, or co-workers that law enforcement personnel have been asking questions about you, you may unwittingly be a suspect in a criminal investigation.
Some criminal investigations can be concluded in an hour or less, and others may take months or even years to conclude. The complexity of a criminal investigation and the seriousness of charges may add to the amount of time it takes for a charging decision. During criminal investigations, police officers or detectives may interview witnesses, they may interview purported victims, gather medical records or business records, conduct fingerprint, DNA, drug, or blood testing, take photographs or video, and/or apply for search warrants to seize and search property. In some felony cases, a special grand jury may be convened to assist in the criminal investigation.
In most criminal investigations, there is a point at which law enforcement will attempt to interview a “person of interest” or suspect. Many people cooperate with law enforcement thinking that this will help them later, only to find that actions they took or statements they made will be used against them. You have an absolute right to remain silent and/or to have an attorney present when you are being questioned as part of a criminal investigation. If you do choose to speak with anyone in law enforcement, make sure to note who you spoke with, when you spoke with them, their title or job description, and what you said.
If you value your freedom and wish to protect your rights, don’t proceed as a criminal suspect without legal counsel.