WHY IS THIS DETECTIVE CALLING ME AND WHAT SHOULD I DO?
ASSUME CALLS FROM A DETECTIVE ARE RECORDED
When anyone from law enforcement contacts you, assume the phone call is being recorded. If you say anything self-incriminating over the phone, they may use it against you.
Texas is a one-party consent state. This means that as long as one person in the conversation consents to the recording it is legal. Even if you are not aware of the recording, the conversation may be admissible in court.
During an investigation, the detective may also have someone you know, such as a parent, sibling, or spouse, call you. The intent is to get you to admit to the crime. These calls are recorded and may become evidence against you.
They may have someone you know wear a wire and try to obtain a confession. Your best defense is to not discuss your case with anyone except your defense attorney.
LEGAL LIES DURING DETECTIVE QUESTIONING
It doesn’t seem fair, but law enforcement can legally lie to you. They may tell say you are not a suspect. They may say they just want you to “answer a few questions to clear your name,” when you are their prime suspect.
Detectives will do everything possible to coerce a confession from you. They want you to think they are your friend. They know that once they arrest you there is a greater chance you will enact your Miranda rights.
If you aren’t talking, they aren’t gathering evidence. An attorney will prevent you from making incriminating statements. By exercising your legal rights you make the detective’s ability to build a case against you more difficult.
Do not assume it is okay to speak with a detective if you are 100% innocent. Innocent people often find themselves under arrest. There are many innocent people convicted at trial who spend years in prison.
According to the Innocent Project, about 1% of the entire U.S. prison population, or around 20,000 people, are falsely convicted. Since 1989 there have been 850 exonerations nationwide.
SLOW THEIR PROGRESS
That detective call may cause a moment of panic. Take a deep breath and advise them you want your lawyer present during questioning. Once you exercise this right law enforcement is supposed to stop questioning you.
That doesn’t mean they will. They may attempt to get a verbal reaction from you. They may claim you are getting a “one-time plea offer” or will be arrested unless you talk immediately.
If the detective has probable cause you are guilty, they will arrest you anyway. Probable cause is not sufficient for a conviction. Silence is your best defense.
If you are free to leave, obtain a business card from the detective and tell them you will have an attorney contact them. Running away does not stop the investigation, so contact an attorney immediately. Your attorney may be able to get ahead of the investigation and prevent an arrest.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WHEN A DETECTIVE CALLS
RIGHT TO TERMINATE THE INTERVIEW
Despite what law enforcement may imply, Texas law does not require you to participate in a criminal investigation interview.
You have the right to terminate the interview at any time. If you are uncomfortable with the way police are questioning you, stop it immediately.
If you are not under arrest, you have the right to walk out at any time. If you are under arrest, you can refuse to answer further questions until you have an attorney present.
RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT
Whether under arrest or participating in a voluntary interview, you have the right to remain silent during questioning. If you are under arrest, the police have a legal obligation to advise you of your Miranda rights.
If the police fail to read you your Miranda rights prior to questioning, your answers may be found inadmissible in court. Even without Miranda being given, the best course of action is to remain quiet. Do not attempt to explain why you are innocent.
RIGHT TO HAVE AN ATTORNEY PRESENT
You have a legal right to have an attorney with you during questioning. The police may claim requesting a lawyer makes you look guilty. Exercising your legal rights does not indicate guilt.
The detective wants you to build their case by saying something incriminating. Once you “lawyer up,” their job is more difficult.
YOUR MIRANDA RIGHTS
Even though law enforcement needs to advise you of your Miranda rights following an arrest, it is beneficial to know them ahead of time:
- You have the right to remain silent
- If you give up your right to remain silent, they may use anything you say in court
- You have the right to an attorney
- If you are financially not able to pay for an attorney, one will be provided to you
You will be asked if you understand the rights. After acknowledging you understand, you will be asked if you are willing to talk with the detective. This is the point where you remain silent and request an attorney.
Do not assume that if the police fail to read your Miranda rights they will not be able to use your statements. For Miranda to apply to your case:
1. YOU MUST BE IN CUSTODY
Under the law, the term “in custody” means you are not free to leave. If you cannot get up and walk out, you are legally “in custody.”
2. YOU MUST BE INTERROGATED
After determining you were “in custody,” the next question is whether there was an interrogation. Did the detectives ask questions, or did you make statements on your own?
The legal definition of interrogation is the asking of questions for the purpose of obtaining evidence. If law enforcement was not asking you questions and you gave information they could use against you, there is no violation of Miranda.