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How To Respond To Police Questioning

How To Respond To Police Questioning

Do you have to answer police questions? Police officers serve a vital role in the community and are a needed component of a free society. However, their presence as one of authority can be intimidating and scary, even if you are innocent of any guilt. If you are guilty, seeing that badge come your way, asking some hard-to-answer questions, can be even scarier. This feeling of inadequacy and fear is well founded as police officers are trained to leverage their legal power to question citizens. If you find yourself facing some accusatory questioning from a police officer, regardless of your fault, keep the following tips in mind on how to respond properly to their questioning. 

If You Are Pulled Over When Driving

Your most likely encounter with a police officer in day-to-day life will be a traffic stop. In California, the only thing you “have” to do when pulled over by a police officer is to provide your vehicle registration, proof of insurance, and driver’s license. For any and all other questions, your Miranda rights give you the right to remain silent. We recommend you do just that as much as possible. Remember, police officers are highly trained professionals. They understand how to get you to divulge more information than you ever intended to share. Be careful, be quiet, and don’t incriminate yourself with careless words either in traffic stops or questioning sessions.

Understand Your Position/Situation 

If you are brought into a police station for questioning, there are three legal categories allowed under the law, each with their own unique legal boundaries. They are explained as follows:

  • Voluntary Encounter: You can end this session at any time you choose. You should not be searched by an officer.
  • Investigative Detention: If you are involved in an investigative detention, you cannot leave immediately. You can also be frisked. However, this type of encounter should only last from 20-30 minutes, meaning legally it can’t go on and on and on. 
  • Arrest: Obviously, if you have been arrested, your rights are more limited. You are legally required to show your ID, you can be frisked, and can even be transported to jail in certain situations. 

Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause

In general, an officer cannot detain you without “reasonable suspicion.” However, your definition of “reasonable” and that of the law can be on two different spectrums. Keep in mind, courts typically side with police officers if they feel they had adequate grounds for suspicion. To arrest you, an officer must have “probable cause.” This is harder to prove, legally. Therefore, if you find yourself being questioned by a police officer, it’s okay to ask what probable cause they have to arrest you or to search you or your car. Make them prove they have either reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Don’t just assume they do. 

Ask to Leave, Find Out If You Are Under Arrest & Don’t Consent to Anything

Even if a police officer intimates you during questioning, if they don’t have adequate evidence, they cannot force you to stay put. Therefore, it’s a good idea to ask if you can leave. In fact, many arrests are the direct result of police officers using intimidation and trickery to make people believe they have to stay put and answer questions. Police officers do not have to be completely honest with you and they will make you think your situation is more dire than it is, so always ask if you can leave the premises. In many cases, getting out of there is the best idea. If you are told you can’t leave, the next question is to ask is if you are under arrest. 

If you are under investigation or even arrested, you still have rights. Don’t consent to anything, no matter what. This is considered waving your rights to a police officer. For example, you can give officers consent to enter your home, which basically gives them free rein to look for damaging evidence. 

Know The Common Questioning Tactics

Learn the following tactics police officers often use during the questioning process. These techniques are universally implemented, meaning no matter where you reside in CA, you could face these tactics during police questioning:

  • They will say they have incriminating evidence. 
  • They will try to encourage you to give them permission to search your home, car, etc. They also will try to get information out of you you might not want to give.
  • They will try to lure you in, act like they are on your side and want to help. They might even promise something vague that is non legally binding in exchange for your help. 
  • They will tell you that your silence is incriminating. Not true! These are your rights. 

Hire a Lawyer

Finally and most importantly, hire a lawyer. This is the best thing you can do to protect yourself during an intense line of questioning from a professional law enforcement officer. We understand your legal rights and will ensure you are not put into any questionable situations or tricked into a confession. You can always ask to have your lawyer present should you be brought in for questioning. 

Contact us at Premier Criminal Defense today if you have been arrested or if you feel you are being railroaded by intimidation tactics and want to ensure your constitutional rights are protected.