Citizens often wonder how they can safely interact with police officers, whose job it is to serve and protect the public. It's best to practice caution when being questioned by the police in any circumstance. Anything you say can later be used to indict you for a crime, even if you're 100 percent innocent.
The Simple Questions That Can Lead to Criminal Charges
In order to interact safely with law enforcement agents, it is important to be as polite and respectful as possible. Unfortunately, answering even simple questions can cause a person to unintentionally make an incriminating statement. It is therefore important to know what questions can be incriminating and how to politely decline to answer them in a way that will not escalate the situation.
For example, when you are stopped by the police, they may ask if you've been drinking. Answering this question can cause a driver to incriminate himself or herself of driving under the influence. Instead, it is a perfectly acceptable response to politely tell the officer that you will not answer.
More complicated investigations can lead to more intense questions. In such a case, investigators will often make contact with a suspect at their home or place of work. A suspect in this scenario has no obligation to discuss any aspect of the investigation with law enforcement agents. After confirming their identity and politely declining to speak with police without an attorney present, the suspect should make no further statements about any aspect of the investigation.
Officers know how to protect themselves from making incriminating statements. One former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office employee learned this the hard way after being arrested for solicitation of a prostitute. The Florida Times-Union reports that the former employee (and current crime analyst) declined to make a statement after he was arrested in a prostitution sting run by his former employer. This protected him from providing the police with information that could be used to prosecute him. He had apparently learned about suspects’ rights during his twenty-six-year career with the Sheriff’s Office.
A Jacksonville criminal defense attorney can help residents safely interact with local law enforcement agents without making incriminating statements. Once criminal charges have been filed, a defendant has additional constitutional protections which follow him or her throughout the process. These rights must, however, be invoked and actively protected. An attorney can also help suspects protect their constitutional rights throughout the criminal case process.