You get a phone call from a number you do not recognize, and let it go to voicemail. You listen to it, and lo and behold, it is Detective ___________, calling to say that he has a few questions for you and would like to talk. What do you do?
My name is Corey Scott, and I am a criminal defense attorney. In this blog I would like to discuss what you should do in this type of scenario, and what you should consider before acting.
Let us suppose that you know why the detective wants to speak with you. Maybe you participated in some type of criminal behavior, or maybe you were just with someone who took part in an unlawful activity. The bottom line is that you know what the detective wants to talk to you about. Should you call back?
My answer is, absolutely not. There are a couple of things to consider here. First, if you have done something, one of the worst things that you could do is to give the detective a call back and start talking. If you voluntarily call a detective, your fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination are not relevant, as that conversation would be voluntary. If you pick up the phone or go down to the station with the intent of giving “your side of the story,” you have no protections as far as your fifth amendment rights are concerned. You are volunteering to give a statement, and your constitutional rights do not apply.
Another thing to contemplate is that you can never know for certain what law enforcement knows. Many times, they will say “I know A, B, and C, and because of that, I would like to hear your side of the story. I have already spoken with your friends Jim and Billy, and they have told me everything.” When you hear things like this, you must keep in mind that there is no stipulation in place that says police cannot deceive you. Because they can lie to you, you never know whether they are telling the truth or not. They may not actually know anything. I tell my clients all the time, whenever a police officer or detective is asking permission to discuss something with you, there are likely one of two things going on. The first is, they might have almost enough information to hand the case over to the prosecutor, but there are a few minor details they need to flesh out before charges can be made. They are hoping that you are going to pick up the phone, come down to the police station, and help them close the loops in their case. The other strong possibility is that they do not know anything. They might have just a scant bit of information, and they are hoping that you are going to fill in the blanks. Either way, if you do engage with them, you will be working against yourself by picking up the phone or speaking with a detective.
Your best move is this: do not call them back. In fact, the only call that you should be making is to a defense attorney. Let them know the situation and keep them on retainer. Anything you say to your defense attorney is going to be confidential. Your best bet is to not return that phone call or go down to the station, because you simply cannot win. Your constitutional protections and your rights are not going to be there for you.
If you do choose to give that detective a call back or go down to the station to give them that last bit of information they need, the only reward you will likely receive are handcuffs. Because you chose to return a call or tell “your side of the story,” suddenly you are charged. Remember, you don't know what they know, and they can lie to you.
If I can be of any further assistance to you, please call me or send me an email. I will be more than happy to help. Until then, take great care and remember, do not return that phone call!