What to Do When You’re the Subject of a Police Investigation

September 23, 2020

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

“Hi, this is Officer Smith from the Police Department. I’d like to set up a time for you to come to the station to speak with me about your involvement in an incident we recently learned about.”

Sometimes, it’s a call. Other times, police show up at your home or at your job. If the police contact you and want to speak with you, it is possible that you’re the subject of a criminal investigation. Knowing what the police can do, as well as knowing your rights, is important. If you’re the subject of a police investigation, contact our office as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.


What Can Police Do During an Investigation?

Collect evidence: Often times, an investigation begins with a crime scene. There, the police can take pictures and measurements. They can also make general observations about the scene. This includes where certain objects are, where there are blood stains or other evidence, what the weather is, etc. Police will often take custody of evidence, placed in a special bag and properly marked. That evidence can also be subject to forensic testing at a later point.

Speak with witnesses: Officers can also interview witnesses. This is so they can establish the facts of the case. The witness must have actual, personal knowledge of the crime or some important fact relating to the event at issue. Witnesses will be interviewed individually, and then police will prepare reports relating to the interviews.

Subpoena records: In some cases, the police will subpoena documents. A subpoena duces tecum can be served to obtain records which are likely relevant to the investigation. This may help police connect the dots – particularly so in white collar crimes or in cases involving phone calls or text messages.

Interview suspects: At any point, the police can question the target of their investigation. While the suspect does not have to speak with investigators, as detailed below, the police can use the opportunity to get a suspect to tell “their side of the story.” Interrogation can often produce result faster than many other investigative techniques.


What Are Your Rights if You’re Under Investigation?

Police officers are skilled interrogators who have studied human behavior and body language. They have learned techniques to gain a suspect’s trust and get them to make inculpating statements. Some techniques include lying about evidence, tricking a suspect, or making it seem like they’re just “trying to help you out.”

Most people feel like if they can just explain their side of the story, they can avoid criminal charges. In most cases, if the cops are interviewing you, they are already targeting you as a suspect. Speaking with police without an attorney is a mistake too often made. Invoking your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney is of utmost importance in any interaction with police who are investigating a crime.

Note that police only have to read you Miranda warnings if you are in custody. When conducting an investigation, police may not have probable cause to arrest you so you might be free to leave. If police start asking you about a crime, ask police if you’re free to leave.  If you’re not under arrest, leave the police station right away and call your attorney.


Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

Hiring a lawyer when you’re under investigation is always in your best interests. In some cases, your attorney can help avoid having any criminal charges filed against you. An attorney can also advise you on what information to give to the police, when to stay silent, and of course navigate the criminal justice system if you are later arrested.

Contact our offices if you’re being investigated by the police. If you hire Pappalardo & Pappalardo, LLP at the outset of a criminal investigation, our lawyers will have more time to spend on your case.