The Law Offices of Ossie Brown
P 225-424-7388

When do you need to talk with police in an investigation?

Assisting law enforcement in an investigation is often a legally dangerous thing to do. Anything that you say to law enforcement will undoubtedly get recorded, potentially for later use in court. Seemingly innocuous bits of information that you offer in the hope of helping them solve the case could end up making you look like a suspect.

Even if you don't believe that law enforcement has any degree of suspicion toward you related to a crime, you need to be incredibly careful about what you say. Understanding when law enforcement can compel you to talk is important, because it will help you make more informed decisions about whether talking with them is in your best interest.

Law enforcement can hold you as a material witness or person of interest

If there is reason to believe that you witnessed a crime or have some degree of social ties to the perpetrator, law enforcement may move to detain you as a material witness. If you have any degree of connection to the case, even if law enforcement already has a suspect, you need to take great care with what you say to the officers involved in the investigation.

While it is legal for law enforcement to detain you for specific periods of time without arresting you, they cannot compel you to speak. In fact, your right against self-incrimination is one of the most important rights you have while in police custody. That is why law enforcement must always advise a suspect of their right to remain silent before an interrogation.

However, if you are not formally under arrest or under suspicion from law enforcement, those same rights do not initially apply to you. You have the right to remain silent, but law enforcement may not advise you of that right until they have reason to suspect your involvement in a crime. They may also threaten to charge you with obstruction if you don't answer their questions.

It is almost universally in your best interest to have a criminal defense attorney present any time you have to give information to law enforcement. In fact, you can cooperate with law enforcement through an attorney and assist in an investigation without endangering yourself. Your attorney can relay messages or even help you compose a letter that can serve as your statement.

The courts can compel you to give testimony unless it implicates you

If you receive a subpoena to appear in court, you are legally obligated to comply. The prosecutors or the defense involved in the case may need your testimony to build their argument. Generally speaking, the courts can compel you to testify, unless you have reason to believe that doing so will somehow implicate you in some sort of criminal activity.

In that scenario, you have the right to plead the Fifth Amendment, which protects you from compulsory self-incrimination. It is normal and common to feel stressed and confused about involvement in a criminal investigation. Having an attorney not only ensures you have an advocate looking out for you, but also helps you avoid making a mistake that could prove costly in the future.

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The Law Offices of Ossie Brown
123 Saint Ferdinand Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802

Phone: 225-424-7388
Fax: 225-334-7824
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