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What if a Police officer or Federal Agent come to my door?

You do not have to invite the agents or police into your home. You do not have to answer any questions. Tell the agent or officer that you do not wish to talk with him or her. You can state that your lawyer will contact them on your behalf. You can do this by staying within your home and pulling the door so that the interior of your home or office is not visible, getting their contact information or business cards and then closing the door. Do not argue or ask questions and stay calm throughout the encounter. They should cease questioning after this. If the agent or officer gives a reason for contacting you, take notes and give the information to your attorney. Anything you say, no matter how seemingly harmless or insignificant, may be used against you or others in the future. Lying to or misleading a federal agent is a crime. The more you speak, the more opportunity for federal law enforcement to find something you said (even if not intentionally) false and assert that you lied to a federal officer.

Do I have to answer questions?

You have the constitutional right to remain silent. It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions. You do not have to talk to anyone, even if you have been arrested or are in jail. You should affirmatively and unambiguously state that you wish to remain silent and that you wish to consult an attorney. Once you make the request to speak with a lawyer, the officer must stop asking questions. Do not say anything else. The Supreme Court recently ruled that answering law enforcement questions may be taken as a waiver of your right to remain silent, so it is important that you assert your rights and maintain them. Only a judge can order you to answer questions. There is one exception: some states have “stop and identify” statutes which require you to provide identity information or your name if you have been detained on reasonable suspicion that you may have committed a crime. A lawyer in your state can advise of the specifics in your state on giving identification.

Do I have to give my name?

As above, in some states you can be detained or arrested for merely refusing to give your name. And in any state, police do not always follow the law, and refusing to give your name may make them suspicious or more hostile and lead to your arrest, even without just cause, so use your judgment. Giving a false name could in some circumstances be a crime. Typically, I advise clients to give the officer your name.

Do I need a lawyer?

You have the right to talk to a lawyer before you decide whether to answer questions from law enforcement. It is a good idea to talk to a lawyer if you are considering answering any questions. You have the right to have a lawyer present during any interview. The lawyer’s job is to protect your rights. Once you tell the agent that you want to talk to a lawyer, he or she should stop trying to question you and should make any further contact through your lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, you can still tell the officer you want to speak to one before answering questions.

Won’t it look like I’m guilty or have something to hide if I don’t answer their questions?

Anything you say to law enforcement can be used against you and others. You can never tell how a seemingly harmless bit of information might be used or manipulated to hurt you or someone else. That is why the right not to talk is a fundamental right under the Constitution. Keep in mind that although law enforcement agents can lie to you, lying to a government agent is a crime. Remaining silent is not. The safest things to say are “I am going to remain silent,” “I want to speak to my lawyer,” and “I do not consent to a search.” It is a common practice for law enforcement agents to try to get you to waive your rights by telling you that if you have nothing to hide you would talk or that talking would “just clear things up.” The fact is, if they are questioning you, they are looking to incriminate you or someone you may know, or they are engaged in political intelligence gathering. You should feel comfortable standing firm in protection and defense of your rights and refusing to answer any questions without your lawyer. The officer may threaten to arrest you.  If he or she does make such a threat, YOU MUST REMAIN SILENT!!!!  It has been my experience that too many people try to explain themselves to police thinking it will prevent them from being ARRESTED and in the end, give the police information that gets them CONVICTED. If the officer or agent is questioning you as a suspect, they have already made their minds up on arresting you.

If you need a lawyer contact your State Bar association or National Lawyers Guild.  Freedom requires that everyone understand the rights and use them without fear.

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