Interviewer: What’s some of the most common ways that someone will know that they have a problem? Besides being arrested, is it common that police will call someone and say, “You need to come to the police station and talk to us?” Will friends and families find out that someone’s investigating them?
You Could Be Contacted by Phone or at Your Residence by a Detective
Eric: Usually the most common way and I get a lot of phone calls along those lines, would be, either a phone call from a detective and it could be somebody who’s a detective in the district attorney’s office or one of the police department’s detectives. They will make a phone call or pay a visit to the house to talk to the person.
Most of the encounters that anybody has with the police would be while you’re driving your car and the police officer turns his lights on. The normal reaction is everybody is always nervous when the police come over to your car and begins asking questions.
The Detectives May Try to Mislead You about the Nature of the Investigation
When a detective or other law enforcement officer comes to the house, the detectives are usually not 100% truthful. Could I say that they’re liars? Actually, I use that term all the time. They’ll come and they’ll say, “You’re not the target. We want to talk to you about somebody else. We need some information about something.”
Of course you’re the target, that’s why they’re there to talk to you. People will talk to the police after the officer puts them at ease, by saying,” You’re not the target. Don’t worry about it.”
It Is Never Advisable to Speak with the Police Unless You Have an Attorney Present
The most common problem that we have is that people should not talk to the police. Even if you are totally innocent of any wrongdoing, you should not talk to the police without talking to an attorney first. The police can twist your words and what you meant to say. Now, if you weren’t the target initially, you certainly will be at the end of the conversation.
How Do You Tell the Police You Want to Speak with an Attorney?
Interviewer: How do you tell the police, “I need to have an attorney present before answering your questions.”? Is there a nice way to say this where they don’t suddenly get mad and try to intimidate you or bully you into talking?
Eric: It depends on the police officer you’re dealing with. Everybody should just say, “I’d like to talk to my attorney before I talk to you.” I’ve been around for a number of years and have seen that the detectives understand that and they’re going to be disappointed, some maybe mad but there’s nothing they can do about it once you say that lawyer word.
I always tell my clients “Use it. Use the lawyer word.” There’s nothing they can do.
The police usually get angry is when somebody says, “I’m going to talk to my lawyer and we’ll call you back.” and then nobody calls the officer back. That’s when they get angry. When somebody contacts me for instance, I talk to the client and find out what the police officer said to them. I try and get a better understanding of what they think the officer wants. I actually contact the detective.
If Your Attorney Contacts the Detectives, He or She Will Be Able to Gain a Better Understanding of Their Actual Intent
We have a better understanding of whether my client is a target of an investigation, or he’s just a witness, and what do they really want. Most often, I will say, “Sorry, we don’t have really anything to tell you.” They don’t get mad at the client at that point, they just get mad at me and that’s okay with me.
Interviewer: Will the police tell you more of what’s going on, or they’ll still hold back just the same as they would when they are talking to the suspect?
Eric: Usually the detectives will tell me what’s going on, at least as much as they know. They know who I am and most of the officers recognize me after all these years. They certainly known that the lawyer practices criminal law by the things we say and the introductions we make. It’s usually in everybody’s best interest when the officer tells the truth.
If You Are the Subject of an Investigation and Are about to Be Arrested, It Is Far Better to Have Your Attorney Involved in the Process
They are certainly not going to tell me 100% of what’s going on, nor am I going to tell them 100% of what I know is going on. Usually in the beginning of the conversation, one of the first questions I ask the detective is if my client is a target of your investigation.
The officer usually will tell me, yes he is or yes he’s not and the conversation will then flow into, “Do you need to arrest my client?” The cop will tell me yes or no and if the answer is yes, then there the conversation doesn’t go any further.
Your Attorney Can Make the Appropriate Arrangements for You to Surrender to the Police at a Mutually Agreed upon Time and Place
My client is represented by a lawyer; he’s represented by me. We will arrange the surrender at a mutually agreeable time and date and place so they don’t embarrass the client in front of any family or friends. The officers are usually much more appreciative of that because they don’t have to then go out. Nobody gets hurt and nobody gets chased. The officers just complete their paperwork and the process just takes place.
If they say, “We are not arresting him.” “We don’t know.” I say, “What do you need to know?” Whatever the officer tells me, if I had the information I’ll be more than happy to supply him with what information I have as per my client’s okay. Very seldom, if ever, is my client ever going to talk directly to a police officer.
By Eric Sachs