In a recent interview, top criminal defense attorney Saul Bienenfeld, founding partner of Bienenfeld Law in New York City, NY, revealed the essential do’s and don’ts when questioned by the police. —
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When asked to comment, he said, “Not many people know what their rights are when confronted and questioned by law enforcement. The truth of the matter is that police officers are trained to use tactics with the singular aim of getting someone to confess. If you find yourself being questioned by the police, here are some things to keep in mind.”
It's important first to understand why the police are asking questions.
“You don’t want to panic and jump to conclusions just because police are talking to you. Before assuming anything, you should find out if you are the person of interest in a crime or simply a witness. If they think you’re a witness, they could just be asking you questions as part of their investigation about a case,” he said.
Bienenfeld was quick to add that if the encounter between both parties is consensual, then it’s not mandatory to speak with law enforcement.
“In this situation, you are under no obligation to answer a police officer’s questions, and it’s completely within your rights to ask if you are free and to walk away from the encounter,” he said.
However, according to Bienenfeld, leaving is not an option during an investigative detention. During an investigative detention, police detain their suspects for a limited time, and suspects are not required to answer the officers' questions.
“Arrests differ from investigative detentions as anyone arrested might be searched before going to the police station. Still, even if arrested, you have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer their questions as long as you give your name,” he said.
Not providing much information to police officers without legal representation present is important as officers are trained to elicit information from possible suspects.
When asked to elaborate, Bienenfeld said, “Something that everyone should know is that law enforcement knows how to coerce people into making statements that could harm them in the long run. Police officers often – and are allowed to – lie and claim that they’ve found evidence proving your guilt when they don’t have it at all. For instance, they might say that they have your fingerprints on a stolen TV when they do not. They do this to get you to talk, however you do not have to. The best thing to do is to remain silent until you have an attorney present.”
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