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Should I Answer Questions from a Law Enforcement Officer?


We are frequently approached by people who have had a law enforcement officer come to their home or business asking them questions. These people want to know if a) they need to answer these questions and b) they should have an attorney present when speaking to these law enforcement officers.

There’s really no complete right or wrong answer to these questions. Should somebody answer questions from any law enforcement officer? The FBI, the Postal Inspector? It really depends on what is going on and on why they’re asking you questions.

For instance, if you work in a bank, and the bank was just robbed, and the FBI shows up and they want to ask you questions – yes, you should answer the questions. If you’re standing next to the mall, and something blows up and the police want to question you and ask you, “what did you see?” and “did you see someone running away?” obviously, you want to answer those questions. Certainly, if you’re a witness to something or you just happened to see something, then you can talk to the police and tell them what happened, but in that situation, you’re not being investigated.

If nothing unusual has happened that you’re aware of and all of a sudden agents show up and start questioning you and asking you where you were at a certain time, or what banking institution do you use, and those types of things, it’s likely that you may need to think about seeking some legal advice before you spend a lot of time talking to law enforcement. It can be a standard part of an investigation – which could mean an investigation which concerns you – that Law Enforcement officers, such as the Postal Inspector or DEA Agent, will show up and ask questions. Unfortunately, when an investigation is ongoing, they will often not tell you what it is, exactly, that they’re investigating. And so, that creates some concerns for you because you don’t know if you’re the target of these questions; you don’t know if they think you’ve done something illegal; and you really won’t know what the subject of the investigation is. And sometimes people are left wondering, even if they do answer questions, what it was all about.

If you’re being investigated, meaning that you are the subject of the investigation, you need to understand that the police are generally there to get incriminating information from you. You need to understand that the police don’t necessarily have to tell you that you’re the target of the investigation.

And so, should you talk to them or not? It doesn’t hurt to ask for a lawyer and get some legal advice, because you can always talk to the police later. You don’t want to get into a situation where you find out what it’s all about and it’s too late because you’ve given statements freely and voluntarily and incriminated yourself. The safest thing to do is to ask them what it’s about; ask them if they think you need a lawyer; and if you think you need a lawyer or it’s just that there’s a chance that you need a lawyer, then contact a lawyer, get some legal advice, and make sure you’re protected Anytime law enforcement asks you questions, and certainly if it’s unexpected, it’s usually good advice to get some legal advice; it’s good advice to contact a lawyer. If you’re not under arrest, you don’t have to answer those questions, you don’t have to go with them, so you need to be aware of that. you need to be aware of why they’re asking you the question. It may be that someone you know is a suspect, it may be that you’re a suspect, it may be that these questions and answers will give them enough probable cause to place you under arrest or to get an indictment.

There’s no magic moment at which you can talk or not talk. Sometimes the police present it that way almost as if this is the only time you can talk, there won’t be another opportunity. That’s certainly a legitimate police interrogation technique which they are allowed to use, but you can always talk to the police later. You can talk to them an hour later; you can talk to them the next day; you can talk to them the next week. You can always talk later. So, if you’re being questioned, it’s always good to consult an attorney, find out what you need to do, find out what the circumstances are.

If you find yourself in that situation, you should contact us at the Complete Legal Defense Team and we can help you decide how best to proceed.

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