What to do if a Detective Calls

If a detective has reached out, you are on the right page. Most people have never had to think about “What should I do if a Detective Calls?” and, as a result, are unprepared for that moment. The reality is that police officers and detectives know this, and are trained to prey upon that lack of planning, understanding, and human nature that makes us want to have the conversation. If you get no further than this introduction, know this: you should not talk to a detective on your own under any circumstances, whether innocent or guilty or being told you are just a witness, without talking to an attorney first. The only exception is if you are the victim of a crime.

Key Takeaways

  • Verify the detective’s identity by asking for the detective’s name, badge number, and phone number. This is an easy way to end the call and give yourself time to call a criminal defense lawyer. 

  • Understand that detectives use a range of tactics to gather information so it is important to know your rights during interactions with them, notably that Miranda rights only apply in custodial interrogations. This means detectives can and will have conversations with you without Mirandizing you.

  • Securing a criminal defense attorney can guard your rights, provide strategic legal advice, and facilitate communication with law enforcement when that is appropriate.

Immediate Steps When You Receive a Detective’s Call

Detective making a phone call

Feeling unnerved when a detective calls is natural. The rule of thumb in such instances is to:

  • Not give any statements whatsoever. Instead, ask for the detective’s name, badge number, and phone number and say you’ll be in touch. Then call a defense lawyer.
  • Assume that the call is being recorded and could potentially be used in a legal context later.

  • Promptly reaching out to an attorney can be invaluable in protecting your rights throughout the conversation.

Verify the Caller’s Identity

In an era where scams and impersonations are increasingly common, it’s vital to verify the identity of the caller claiming to be a detective. Not everyone who claims to be a detective truly is one. Impostors can pretend to be detectives to intimidate individuals into revealing sensitive information or executing a scam.

Law enforcement officials, including detectives, have specific protocols for contacting individuals. Verifying their identity ensures that you’re dealing with an authorized officer. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a detective and they start questioning you without any context, follow these steps to verify their identity:

  1. Get their name and badge number.

  2. Ask for a return number to call them back.

  3. Contact a defense lawyer who can advise you on whether you should talk to the detective and verify the identity of the caller.

Assess the Nature of the Call

 Typically, a detective might call you if they perceive you as a potential witness, a victim, or a suspect in a criminal case. If you are a victim, go ahead and talk to the detective. Under other circumstances, call a lawyer. The same is true if a detective leaves a card on your door or at your place of work requesting a call or a time to meet.

Protect Your Right to Silence

Communicating with detectives without legal representation is often a profound mistake. Remember, officers are allowed to lie to you during the course of an investigation, so you are going in blind and cannot rely on what they tell you.

When a detective asks questions in person beyond basic identification, you should assert your right to have an attorney present and refuse further discussion without one, especially if the detective pressures you for information. Consulting with a criminal defense attorney protects you during interactions with law enforcement, acts as a barrier against self-incrimination, and ensures your rights and best interests are observed.

Deciphering the Detective’s Intentions

When we reach out as defense lawyers, we are, in part, trying to gauge the detective’s intentions. Some common reasons for a detective to reach out to an individual include:

  • To gather information about a case;

  • To request an interview or statement; or

  • To ask for assistance or cooperation.

It is important to remember that if a detective contacts you, it is advisable to consult with an attorney immediately and establish attorney contact before providing any information or agreeing to an interview.

These calls can have multifaceted purposes, including:

  • Gathering information

  • Locating a person of interest

  • Requesting an interview

  • Verifying facts

  • Ruling someone out as a suspect

Being contacted by a detective does not automatically imply suspicion of a crime; it could indicate that the individual possesses information valuable to an investigation. Understanding detectives’ diverse reasons for making contact underscores the importance of caution during such interactions.

Understanding Detective Tactics

As trained professionals, detectives employ a range of strategies to collect information. They can legally lie during questioning, which can mislead individuals and cause unintended suspicions even when they provide honest answers. Detectives might also employ psychological pressure and misdirection, such as pretending to empathize or falsely presenting evidence, to pressure an individual into admitting guilt.

Some investigators use specialized interrogation techniques like the Reid method, aiming to achieve a confession by presenting contrived evidence or developing a theme around the individual’s potential motives. They may also make false assurances, such as claiming a person is not a suspect, to lower defenses and encourage open dialogue that could lead to incriminating admissions.

Detectives might even use pretextual phone calls by an individual’s spouse or someone close to them to secretly record conversations and gather evidence without the suspect realizing it. It is crucial to maintain your right to silence and consult with an attorney before speaking to detectives.

The Role of Probative Questions

Probative questions aim to collect detailed information that can confirm facts in a case, often helping to establish probable cause. These inquiries are significant as they largely contribute to resolving legal disputes in court or establishing a case point.

Answering probative questions without legal counsel can place an individual at risk by inadvertently placing themselves at a crime scene, thereby becoming part of the evidence against them. By refusing to engage in dialogue without an attorney, individuals prevent providing unintentional probative information that could be detrimental to their case.

Miranda Does Not Apply to Non-Custodial Interviews

Note that police officers are obliged to inform individuals of their Miranda rights only if they are under arrest and before interrogation, particularly when the person is deemed a suspect. Before any formal arrest, individuals have the right to decline to speak with the police and to explicitly request an attorney.

Handling Requests to Visit the Police Station

At times, detectives might invite you to the police station for questioning. An invitation is not a subpoena or a court order. An invitation is something you have no obligation to say “yes” to. Complying with a police request for an interview at the station can imply a connection to a crime and may inadvertently lead to self-incrimination.

Instead, you may inform the detective that you are willing to talk to a detective and discuss the matter, but only with your lawyer present, and advise that your lawyer will contact them to set up a meeting.

Securing Legal Representation

Engaging an experienced criminal defense lawyer becomes imperative when a detective contacts you.

An attorney provides several important services:

  • Communicates with the detective to ascertain the investigation’s nature and understand the allegations made;
  • Provides an honest assessment of the situation;

  • Offers a robust defense for your rights from the onset;

  • Advises you on whether you should cooperate or not; and
  • Devises an informed strategic response.

Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Hiring a criminal defense attorney can offer several strategic advantages and ensure that individuals have a trusted advisor throughout their case. Some of the benefits of hiring a criminal defense attorney include:

  • Ensuring your rights are protected;

  • Helping you understand how and when to assert your right to remain silent;
  • Mitigating circumstances before any charges are formally brought;

  • Arranging for a self-surrender when necessary as opposed to being hunted down and arrested publicly and in an unnecessarily embarrassing manner.

Criminal Defense Lawyers at Varghese Summersett

How to Find the Right Attorney

Selecting the appropriate attorney demands thoughtful consideration. Examining an attorney’s history of defending specific crimes similar to yours is important to ensure they possess the necessary expertise for your case and to identify ways to alleviate legal risk. Inquire about an attorney’s experience with cases similar to yours, their billing structure, and overall experience.

Utilize resources like Super Lawyers and local bar associations to find and vet potential criminal defense attorneys. Choose a local attorney who has the following:

  • experience working within the jurisdiction of your case, including familiarity with the prosecutors and judges

  • a track record of success in similar cases

  • good communication skills and the ability to explain complex legal concepts in a way that you can understand

  • a reputation for being trustworthy and reliable

Trust your instincts when selecting an attorney. Personal comfort and a feeling of trustworthiness with your attorney are key to a good defense partnership.

Summary

By understanding your rights, verifying the caller’s identity, assessing the nature of the call, and securing legal representation, you can navigate the process confidently and protect your interests. Remember, it’s crucial to remain calm, be mindful of your words, and consult a criminal defense lawyer before responding to probative questions. Your proactive actions can significantly impact the outcome of any ensuing legal proceedings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if a detective calls me?

If a detective calls you, remain calm, verify their identity, and contact a criminal defense lawyer before responding to any questions.

Why might a detective call me?

A detective might call you if you’re seen as a potential witness, victim, or suspect in a criminal case, or if you’re believed to have information relevant to an investigation. 

What are probative questions and why should I be cautious about them?

You should be cautious about probative questions because they are designed to gather specific information that can be used to prove something in a case, and answering them without legal counsel can put you at risk of self-incrimination. 

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About the Author Board Certified Lawyer Benson Varghese

About the Author

Benson Varghese is the managing partner of Varghese Summersett. He is a seasoned attorney, highly esteemed for his comprehensive knowledge and expertise in the field. He has successfully handled thousands of state and federal cases, ranging from misdemeanor driving while intoxicated cases to capital offenses, showcasing his commitment to preserving justice and upholding the rights of his clients. His firm covers criminal defense, personal injury, and family law matters. Benson is also a legal tech entrepreneur. Benson is a go-to authority in the legal community, known for his ability to explain complex legal concepts with clarity and precision. His writings offer a wealth of in-depth legal insights, reflecting his extensive experience and his passion for the law. Not only is Benson an accomplished litigator, but he is also a dedicated advocate for his clients, consistently striving to achieve the best possible outcomes for them. His authorship provides readers with valuable legal advice and an understanding of the complexities of the criminal justice system. CriminalPersonal InjuryFamily Law Contact
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