What Should I Do if I'm Under Investigation?

If you discover that you are being investigated by law enforcement, you should contact your criminal defense lawyer immediately, before you talk to police or investigators.

When they get a phone call from a detective, or find the detective’s card on their front door, many people think:

  • If I don’t talk to them, they will think I’m guilty;
  • If I hire an attorney, they will think I’m guilty;
  • If I talk to them, this will go away;
  • I can talk my way out of this;
  • I don’t have anything to hide, so why wouldn’t I talk to them? Or even
  • I support the police and I trust them.

These all sound like reasonable reactions for a law abiding citizen, until you realize exactly how it works and what the police are doing…

Why Shouldn’t I Talk to the Police?

If police or investigators want to question you about a crime, they are not trying to clear your name – they are gathering evidence with which to prosecute you and anyone else they suspect is involved.

If police want to speak with you about a crime, there are three possibilities:

  1. They believe you are guilty, and they do not have probable cause to charge you. They intend to try to get you to make statements that may incriminate yourself or that contradict statements they’ve already received or information that they already have – when you oblige them with an interview, they may seek a search warrant, and have you arrested based in part on the statements that you made;
  2. They believe you are guilty, and they have probable cause to charge you. They are going to serve the warrant on you and arrest you either way, but they want to give you the opportunity to give them more evidence or inconsistent statements to shore up their case and possibly to lead them to accomplices; or
  3. They think that you may be a witness – be aware that one way police get witnesses to cooperate is by threatening them with arrest if they do not cooperate, and they will be looking for any possible charges that they can make based on what you tell them during the interview. If you have criminal charges hanging over your head, they have leverage to get you to testify in their favor...
What Do I Need to Know About Police Interrogations?

First, don’t subject yourself to one without first talking to your criminal defense lawyer. During police questioning:

  • Police can and will lie to you about evidence that they have or about what other people have told them;
  • Police will threaten you with criminal charges or enhanced charges if you do not say what they want to hear;
  • Your interrogation will probably be either video or audio-recorded. Even if it’s not, your statements will still be admissible at trial;
  • Police are trained in interrogation techniques. You are not. Specifically, many detectives are trained in the “Reid Technique,” a coercive interrogation model that is designed to make people confess to crimes – even people who are innocent of the crime have confessed under psychological pressure like that used in the Reid Technique.
What Can My SC Criminal Defense Lawyer Do If I am Under Investigation?

We will notify all law enforcement agencies involved that you have representation, and from that point forward all communications will be through my office.

You do not have to speak to the police without the advice of counsel. The investigation is a critical stage in your case, where, depending on the circumstances of your case, we might have the opportunity to prevent charges from being filed, turn a felony into a misdemeanor, direct law enforcement to favorable evidence, or negotiate a non-criminal resolution.

If charges are ultimately filed against you, we can arrange for your surrender and facilitate the setting of bond in a timely manner. Throughout the process we can keep you reasonably informed on the status of the investigation and make sure that you understand your rights.

Why does it matter? Just having an attorney at this stage of your case lets the police know that they need to be above-board in their methods when dealing with you. It lets them know that, if they choose to charge you, they better have sufficient probable cause.

It also provides a buffer between you and law enforcement – anything you say can be used against you, but, with few exceptions, what your lawyer says is not going to be admissible against you.

Won’t the Police Think I’m Guilty if I Get a Defense Lawyer?

Police and investigators laugh when they hear this. They want you to think this, but I have heard many officers say that a suspect should have gotten a lawyer before questioning, or that a suspect was stupid for not getting an attorney before meeting with them.

Police don’t think you are guilty because you retain an attorney. They think that you have good common sense – I guarantee you that, if the same officer was called in for questioning, the first thing he or she would do is call their attorney.

SC Criminal Investigations Lawyer in Myrtle Beach, Lexington, and Columbia

I cannot stress enough that the best time for an attorney to get involved in your case is before charges have been filed - you may be able to avoid charges altogether, but, if you are charged, your attorney may have the opportunity to: 1) prevent you from inadvertently providing evidence to the police; and 2) investigate your case as the police are investigating, so you are not playing catch up as the prosecutor gets your case ready for trial.

If you suspect that you are under investigation, contact the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm immediately at 843-444-6122 or contact us online for a free initial consultation about your options before you speak to law enforcement.