A POLICE OFFICER WANTS TO TALK TO ME. SHOULD I MEET WITH HIM?
This is a very common question that is asked of criminal defense lawyers. The scenario goes something like this: you get a phone call or there is a card stuck in the door when you come home from work. The request is from a detective who wants to talk to you. You call him back. He tells you that he would like to meet with you and he is willing to come to your house, meet at a coffee shop or meet at the police station. He seems non-threatening and is very polite. But he refuses to tell you why he wants to meet; just that he wants to discuss some things with you. You agree to meet because he seems likeable and you figure you can handle things on your own.
At this point it is not too late to get good legal advice. Even if you have already promised to meet, you always have the right to talk to a lawyer first. You can call the detective yourself or have your lawyer call to tell him you need more time. At the very least you should consult with a lawyer so that you know what your rights are before going into the meeting.
For those of you who do not heed such warning and meet with the detective without advice of counsel, many of you will discover that you are the target of an investigation. To make matters worse, the detective will not read you a Miranda warning to advise you that you have the right to remain silent and also the right to speak to an attorney before saying anything. Why no warning? Because you are there voluntarily and not “in custody." If you make it this far you probably hear the detective tell you that you are not under arrest and that you are free to leave at any time. He may even leave the interview room door open.
Don’t be fooled. Even though you are free to leave and even though you weren’t given proper Miranda warnings, your statement WILL be used against you later on. There is a reason he turned on his hand-held recorder that is sitting on the table in front of you.
So the question you have to ask yourself is: Why wouldn’t you meet with a lawyer before speaking with the police?