Communications with Law Enforcement about Your Case
This guide will explain how contact with law enforcement happens and how to best protect your rights.
Finding Out About Your CaseYou will find out a number of different ways that you have an open criminal matter. The police officers can arrest you right after a traffic stop on a DWI or a 911 call regarding a domestic disturbance which brings them to your house. Sometimes, you are woken up at 6 AM, to the sound of police officers breaking your front door to get into your domicile to execute a search warrant. Yet other times, you get a call from a Detective or another member of a law enforcement asking you to have an informal chat about a case or a person you may know.
How to Proceed in Speaking to Law EnforcementProceed with caution. There is no such thing as speaking "off the record." Detectives are not your friends. Even if you are not under arrest, even if it is an informal chat in a coffee shop, whatever you tell law enforcement can and will be used against you. Do not give out any information other than your pedigree - name, address, or contact telephone number without speaking to an attorney. Ask for an attorney to be present for any sort of interview - the informal ones as well as the ones where they ask you to waive your Miranda rights. If you may somehow be involved in the case (not as a victim or a witness) and may have criminal liability, you should consult an attorney prior to speaking or meeting with Law Enforcement Agents or the District Attorney.
What Happens After Coming in to Speak to Law EnforcementCases progress a number of different ways after you speak to Law Enforcement. In some situations, where the investigation is complete or where no investigation is necessary, you may be placed under arrest and transported to the Courthouse. Later, you will go before a Judge and find out what your charges are. If you do not have an attorney representing you, the Court will assign you a Court appointed attorney at your Arraignment, who will handle your case until its ultimate resolution.
In other situations, you may be given a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) and released from the precinct. DATs are typically given out on non-violent crimes where the person has very limited criminal contacts. You will then be required to come to DAT Court in about 4-6 weeks to come before the Judge and find out your charges. If you do not have a retained attorney, the Court will assign an attorney on the date that you come in for your DAT.
It is very important that you come to Court on that day, otherwise a warrant will be issued for your arrest. If you cannot make it, you should contact the Court and seek a new date for rescheduling.
Yet, in other situations, the Police or the District Attorney's Office may be seeking information from you regarding something or someone that you may have information about. If you are not under investigation - you are a witness or a victim - you will be free to go after the meeting.
ConclusionIt is very important that you figure out what their interest is in you prior to coming in - are you a witness, a victim, a suspect or a co-conspirator? Consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney early on will help you navigate this process.