First and foremost, it’s important to understand that anything you say to a law enforcement officer may be used against you or others. You have the constitutional right to remain silent. You should not lie to government authorities, but you can remain silent until you are able to speak with your lawyer about your situation.

During criminal investigations, law enforcement may interview victims, witnesses and possible suspects, and everyone has the right to consult with an attorney before answering law enforcement’s questions.

Note: you have the right to remain silent even if you are detained by police, arrested or in jail. Generally, a judge is the only person who can order you to answer questions. However, under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, you have the right not to make self-incriminating statements.

How can an attorney help?

A criminal defense lawyer’s job is to protect your rights. Your attorney can advise you with regard to specific questions, and guide you through the process. Your attorney can act as your representative and counsel, as well as your advocate.

If a police officer tries to question you in the absence of an attorney, you can state that you want to talk to your lawyer. You can then remain silent until your attorney arrives. You may also carry your lawyer’s business card or phone number with you in case investigators show up unexpectedly to your workplace or home.

Whether you are a witness or a suspect, it’s best to consult with an attorney before an interview with law enforcement. To ensure that your rights and interests are protected, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.