Many civil attorneys believe that they have nothing to offer their clients in terms of advice and counsel when it comes to criminal investigations or charges.
Here are seven tips, for any civil practice solo or small firm lawyer representing small business owners, professionals, or individuals whom are approached by law enforcement:
- The client is under no obligation to talk to the police or other government agents.
- Anything said to the police or other agents, can be used against them.
- If client does not want to talk to the police, the magic words are “I invoke my right to counsel, I will not answer any questions without my lawyer present,” or “I do not want to proceed with any questions without my lawyer.”
- Clients should be counseled they may need to say the magic words over and over again until the police listen to them. The request for counsel must be unequivocal.
- Just answering a few questions is how clients wind up in jail. If contacted by police or agents, call your lawyer immediately.
- The right not to incriminate oneself may also extend to the production of documents.
- Clients should never interfere with the execution of a search warrant or arrest warrant.
The right to remain silent and not incriminate oneself is enshrined in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The right to counsel is enshrined in both the Fifth and Sixth Amendment.
In some instances, like in a DUI investigation, statutory law may require the client to provide a blood or breath sample, or risk license suspension for refusing to do so. This does not mean the client, in a DUI investigation, must submit to questioning beyond providing a driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance information.
In most other instances, there is no law compelling any type of cooperation or voluntary production of documents prior to consultation with legal counsel. Advise your clients to heed the example of law enforcement officers themselves—they routinely demand legal representation prior to questioning if they themselves are the subject of an investigation.
About the author:
The Law Office of Matt Sullivan focuses exclusively on the defense of state and federal crimes. Matt has successfully represented clients in a wide range of criminal cases including violent crimes, drug crimes, sex offenses, theft offenses, and financial crimes.