Have You Been Contacted by the Police or CPS?
WHAT TO DO IF YOU'VE BEEN CONTACTED BY POLICE OR CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES (CPS)
Here are some common questions and answers that people have when they become involved in a police investigation or child abuse investigation.
What is the most common mistake people make when they have been contacted by the police?
In a rush to cooperate with police, people often say things that are incriminating. They may think they have nothing to hide, or they fear that if they don't answer questions, they will "look guilty". But the fact is, if you're a suspect, you're a suspect whether you talk or not. This is most often the case in CPS investigations and Federal investigations. A false statement to a law enforcement agent, even if you believe it to be true, can sometimes get you in more trouble than whatever they investigating.
Do you have to talk to the police or CPS?
The Fifth Amendment gives you the right to remain silent. That means you don't have to talk to the police.
It's a good idea to talk to a lawyer even if you think you are just being contacted as a witness. By placing yourself at the scene of a crime, you may be unwittingly incriminating yourself by giving evidence that can be later used against you.
95% of the time, if you are the subject of an investigation there is nothing that you can tell the police that will help you. Never make any statements to the police, even a denial, without your lawyer being present. If you do talk to the police, you will need an experienced lawyer. The police, detectives or other law enforcement officers cannot make 'deals' with you. Only the prosecutor that will be handling any criminal case is authorized to this. Also remember that police do not have to be truthful when questioning you. They can tell you things that they know are not true just to see how you react.
A Child Protective Services Case worker is at my door and asking to speak with me and/or my children? What do I do?
This is a very delicate matter and one of the most freighting situations for a parent. Why are they here? Who made the allegation? Are my children going to be taken away from me? These are all questions that you need to be discussing with your attorney, not the CPS. You, your spouse and your children have the right to have their own lawyer present when being questioned by any CPS worker. You wouldn't let a stranger off the street talk to your children alone, so don't let a CPS worker without first getting the advise of an experienced attorney.
If you have been contacted by the police, what should you do?
When you are contacted...
- Don't answer any questions, even if the police tell that you do not need a lawyer, that this is the 'only time you can cooperate', etc, etc.
- Be polite and get the name and number of the person who wishes to speak to you and tell them that you will call them back
- Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. A lot of inexperienced criminal lawyers, former prosecutors, and most civil lawyers mistakenly believe that it is in your best interest to talk to and cooperate with the police in almost all circumstances. This is generally not true and can result in serious problems down the road if you are indicted or charged with a crime.
Are there ever any circumstances under which you should talk to the police?
The circumstances of every case are different. Some lawyers will tell you that you should never to talk to the police, but that is not necessarily the best advice in every case. An experienced and thoughtful criminal lawyer can help determine when it is in your best interest to speak to the police, and when it is in your best interest to retain your right to remain silent. I have resolved many cases successfully for my clients by agreeing to speak to the police. But I am always cautious until I can develop a relationship with the officer/detective/agent and I do some investigation and determine whether I can trust them.
Should you talk to the press?
You may think you want to expose some injustice by talking to the press, but the reporter isn't necessarily going to take your side of the story. A criminal lawyer is working for you and will generally be the best person to speak with the media. In some circumstances, you may be present and make a statement or you may be present and remain silent. Again, these are all handled on a case-by-case basis.