Voluntary Encounters with Police

When confronted by the police regarding a possible crime, not all of us can have the acumen of a seasoned criminal defense attorney. Therefore, you need to be aware of certain characteristics of each encounter with the police that can protect you from self incrimination. If you are ever confronted by the police regarding a crime, one key factor to consider is if it is a voluntary encounter.

The Supreme Court and appellate courts around the country have consistently ruled that if the encounter with the police is voluntary that your Constitutional rights do not apply as most people think. Therefore, you have to listen carefully to what you are told prior to the interview beginning. In most voluntary encounters, you will be informed that you are not under arrest and that you are free to leave at any time. If this is the case, keep this in the back of your mind at all times. Once this is said, you can stop the interview at any time and walk away. You are in no way required to respond to any questions asked by the police at any time, however, you may not be entitled to counsel at this time either. If you feel that you would be best served by the advice of counsel before going any further, inform the officer that you wish to terminate the interview at that time. At that point, contact an attorney immediately to find out what your rights are.
I cannot stress how important it is that you have to be your own advocate in these situations. An attorney will not know you are involved in a voluntary encounter until after it has happened. As my partner has pointed out, many confessions are made during such encounters simply because the subject does not know their rights. Remember, if you feel intimidated or uncomfortable during a voluntary encounter, only you have the power to terminate the interview and stop the questioning by the police. If they have the ability to charge you at that point, they will and you can obtain the advice of counsel. It is the job of the police to investigate and determine if there is enough evidence to charge you. You do not have to give them any information that makes their job any easier.