A phone call from the police can be an unsettling event. You may have no clue about their reasons for contacting you, but you will likely fear the worst from your conversation. Furthermore, you may be unsure of how to respond to their questioning. To protect yourself, you will want to exercise your constitutional rights.
Understanding your rights
Many people believe that cooperating with the police will improve their chances of a desirable outcome. Regardless of your actions, speaking with officers could incriminate you. Anything you say can count as evidence against you in a criminal investigation. Even statements that may not seem incriminating can be interpreted as such by the police.
To avoid self-incrimination, you can invoke two constitutional rights. The police must honor these, even on the phone. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants you the right to silence when officers question you. This right allows you to refuse to answer questions that the police have for you, especially if responding could incriminate you. Furthermore, the Sixth Amendment grants you the right to counsel. By telling the police that you want to speak with your attorney, they must stop questioning you.
If the police call you at your home, they may hope that you will come to the station so they can question you in person. By cooperating, your actions and words could lead to your apprehension. After questioning you, officers may take you into custody – whether you committed the crime in question or not – so long as they have probable cause to do so. Invoking your constitutional rights can help you avoid this scenario.
When talking with the police on the phone, you must be careful about what you say. Silence can be more effective than words. And exercising your right to it – and an attorney – may save you from serious consequences.