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What should you do if the police want to question you or search your property?

If a police officer or investigator wants to question you about a criminal investigation, you should assert your right to remain silent and have your lawyer present. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that you have a right against self-incrimination: the right to remain silent. Whether you are in custody or not, you should not answer the officer's questions until you have discussed your case with a lawyer.The police are trained to extract information to aid in the charging of a crime. Guilty or innocent, you may say something that you believe is harmless but could actually provide the authorities with a critical piece of evidence.  For example, a police officer calls you and asks you if you were driving your vehicle in a certain vicinity at a certain time yesterday.  You, thinking you have nothing to hide, acknowledge that you were.  What you didn't know was that a school bus driver has alleged that someone driving your vehicle did not stop for a school bus arm while there were children outside the bus. By admitting that you were driving your vehicle, you have just caused yourself to be charged with a gross misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine) versus a petty misdemeanor (punishable by only a fine of no more than $300), which is not a crime. By admitting you were driving your vehicle, you have provided the police officer with the necessary element to charge you with a crime, namely the identification of the driver.

A more serious example would be if an investigator calls you and asks you if you have ever had sexual intercourse with a certain young woman. You say yes, thinking you have nothing to hide because the relationship is consensual. What you don't know is that the girl is younger than 16 years of age and claims you knew her age, thus causing you to be charged with criminal sexual conduct or, as it is more commonly known, statutory rape. By admitting to the sexual intercourse, you have just admitted to a crucial element of the crime, one the state would otherwise have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt.

There are times when it is determined that the best course of action is to give a statement, but that decision should be made with the aid of legal counsel.

If the police request to search your car, home or any property, you should not allow them to do so unless they have a proper search warrant. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Thus, you have a right to refuse the search of your property if there is no search warrant.  However, if you consent to the search of your property, you can no longer assert your Fourth Amendment right against such a search.

Again, you may think you have nothing to hide and so there is no harm in letting them search. However, someone who was in your home may have left behind illegal drugs or other evidence of a crime.  If the police find something in your house or other property, even if you assert it was not yours, it will be determined that you are in constructive possession of that item and you could be charged with its possession.

If the police have asked you to give a statement or consent to a search of your property, you need an experienced legal advocate to fight for your rights. To learn more, contact Carolyn Agin Schmidt.

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