Imagine that you are about to sit down with your family for dinner, and somebody knocks on the door. It is the police, and they were hoping you would go down to the station to “answer” some questions about a homicide next door. You think nothing of it, because you are just trying to be a good member of the community by giving as much information as you can, as to any noise or suspicious activity you may have seen. Scenarios like this play out daily. Sometimes there is a genuine need for help in a case, and sometimes it is a ploy to coerce a confession. Police often ask people for voluntary statements for various matters- sometimes one is a “person of interest” in a crime, or simply an eyewitness to an event or a crime.
In the case of ‘persons of interest,’ one should never voluntarily go down to the police station, because anything you say may be used against you, or to charge you. While you may think that because you are innocent and that you should go down to the station to ‘clear your name,’ keep in mind that the reason police ask persons of interests or people they suspect to voluntarily go to the station is because they do not have enough information to arrest them, take them into custody, or to charge them, and they are trying to get more information in order to do so. In order for the police to charge you with a crime, they must have probable cause, which is defined as the reasonable belief based on the facts articulated, that you have committed the crime. Do not give them this probable cause. If you are requested to go down to the station, respectfully decline and inform them that you want to speak to an attorney first.
At the Station
If you do decide to down to the station, a good litmus test to determine whether you have been taken into custody is to ask whether you are free to leave. Those who are at the station voluntarily may leave at any time, and terminate their interview. They may also refuse subsequent interviews. If you are not free to leave, then the interview has become custodial, and police are required to read you your Miranda rights. Failure to do so may constitute a violation of your Fifth Amendment freedom from self-incrimination.
Additionally, most people do not know that witnesses may sometimes become persons of interests or suspects in a case. Police are not required to inform you of this. In other instances, those who are merely eyewitnesses to an accident or a crime may sometimes find themselves being pestered by the police to answer more questions, even after they have gone down to the station once or twice already. Eyewitnesses are not in custody, and may also terminate an interview at any time. They are also not required to give any statement to begin with, and may also decline future interviews. If police want to mandate your statement, they will have to summon or subpoena you.
Criminal Defense Attorney Serving Clients in San Diego
The Law Offices of David M. Boertje have been zealously defending people’s rights for years. If you are being incessantly questioned by the police, or are a suspect of a crime, call us and we will defend your rights. Our consultations are completely free and confidential. We can be reached at our San Diego office at (619) 229-1870. You can also contact us at our North County location at (760) 476-0901, or visit us online.