The Law Offices of Christine G. DeBernardis

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Should You Ask For a Lawyer?

Asking for an attorney, whether you have committed a crime or not, is not only smart – it’s YOUR right.  In spite of news media or the way TV portrays our legal justice system, the right to counsel is one of the most fundamental parts of our justice system.  Every person is entitled to representation.  Every person is entitled to a defense.  Every person is entitled to know how their actions will affect the future of the case – before those actions happen. Bottom line – you have the right to ask for a lawyer.

You may think that to ask for a lawyer makes you “look guilty.”  You may think that the police won’t “help you” if you ask for an attorney.  You may worry that the police won’t honor your right to counsel after you ask for a lawyer.  None of this is reality.   Often the news media determines someone as guilty long before there has been a trial, or even an arrest but that is not the way it is done in the real world.   Asserting these rights is honored and respected.  And if for some reason it is not, there is no obligation for you to say a word further to anyone.

Consider this scenario –  you are home one night and across the street you hear screaming at the neighbor’s house.  You call 911 and ask the police to come and assist.  They speak to you briefly, take your information and dismiss you from the scene.  ON another night, you are at home and the police knock on your door.  They ask you to come down to the station to speak with them about an active investigation concerning the incident at your neighbor’s house the other night.  They offer no details.  You agree, thinking if you can be of help, you want to do so.  You get down to the station and they begin to question you about a crime for which you have no knowledge.  You try to remember and give them a lot of information, but your answers only elicit more questions.  After a while, you get nervous and wonder if you should request to leave.  Suddenly, you find yourself immersed in an investigation of a crime that you know nothing about.

How did this happen?  What are your rights?  Are you under arrest?  Are you free to leave?  Are you a suspect?  What is going on?  What do you do now?  Will the police tell you the best thing to do at this point?

  1. Ask for details.  Why are you being questioned?  Be polite but make sure you receive answers as to why you are needed to provide answers.
  2. Leave.  Ask if you are free to leave.  If you are not free to leave, ask plainly, “Am I under arrest?” Make sure you ask for a lawyer and say nothing more.
  3. Remain Silent.  Refuse to answer.  You have the right to say no.
  4. Tell the police that you want your Lawyer.  You have the right to representation.  Whether you have done something wrong or not, you have the right to an attorney and to your day in court, should you desire to do so.  Until you have spoken to someone who knows the law and represents YOUR interests, you shouldn’t speak about any of it – guilty or not.

Asking for an attorney may raise some eyebrows, but innocent people use lawyers frequently.  You are not a legal professional.  Even if educated in the law, you may not know your rights regarding this situation.  There is no issue with asserting your right to counsel, that most basic of rights, and receiving proper advice before speaking further.

Are you speaking to police about a criminal matter directly without counsel?  Do you have concerns about a particular criminal case? Contact me HERE to discuss your concerns.

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