The Police Are at Your Door. Do You Know What to Do?
“Trust me; things will be a lot easier if you cooperate.”
These words – or something like them – are spoken by countless law enforcement officers every day. They’re true, but only in part: things will be a lot easier for the police if you give them what they are asking for. However, if you are suspected of a crime, asserting your rights at the early stages of the investigation is the most important step you can take to protect your future.
If you suspect that you may be under investigation, be polite, but don’t give the police access to any information that can be used against you.
Never Consent to a Search
Imagine for a moment that police officers came to your door, requesting to come in and take a look around. Would you know what to do?
First, you should ask whether they have a valid warrant. If they do, you must let them inside. If they don’t, you are under no obligation to let them inside. In fact, in most situations, you shouldn’t. Even if you don’t consent to a search of your belongings, police are free to take action on evidence that is in plain view.
The rules are slightly different if you live with a roommate or if the police come to your place of work. In those cases, your consent may not be necessary. Your employer can consent to a search of your workspace, and police may search your living space if they reasonably believe that your roommate has the authority to consent on your behalf.
Protect Your Computer
Increasingly, computers are being used as evidence in a wide variety of crimes including child pornography, drug trafficking and white-collar offenses.
Police are only allowed to search a computer if they have a warrant or if they believe that the data on the computer is in imminent threat of destruction. In many cases, a general search warrant is not sufficient authority to search a computer.
Never consent to a search of your computer, even if police claim to have valid authority.
Remain Silent and Ask for an Attorney
Protecting your rights is equally important after being arrested or charged with a crime.
Every person taken into custody has the right to remain silent and request to have a criminal defense lawyer present. You should assert these rights immediately. Never speak to law enforcement without first talking with an attorney and never assume that anything you say will be “off the record.”
If you are the subject of a law enforcement investigation, consult with an attorney right away, even if you believe that you have done nothing wrong.