What to Do If You Are Under Investigation
Protect Your Rights During Pre-File Investigations
Being suspected of a crime, especially one as serious as a sex offense, can be frightening and upsetting. Many times, the accused will want to explain their side of the story to law enforcement officials. This is understandable, as a conviction for an offense such as rape can lead not only to prison time and/or fines but also to a requirement to register as a sex offender, which can severely impact a person's life. People might think that clearing their name by honestly answering questions can help them avoid these serious penalties. However, speaking with detectives even at the investigation stage is not advised. Investigators are looking to get statements from the accused to build a case against them.
If you are under investigation for alleged involvement in a criminal matter, do not speak with law enforcement officials. Instead, reach out to a lawyer right away. I, Catherine Cleveland, am a Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney concerned with protecting the rights of those facing serious criminal charges. I am here to help you throughout your case, including the pre-file process. I am familiar with the tactics detectives use to compel statements and what evidence they are looking for to support the allegations. I can advise you on what to do when a detective wants to speak with you and help you avoid making statements that could hurt your case. In some situations, it may be possible to counter the prosecution's case before charges are filed and seek to have it dropped.
What Is the Purpose of the Pre-File Investigation?
When the State pursues a criminal case against a defendant, the prosecutor's job is to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To do this, they must present sufficient evidence supporting their arguments.
The pre-file investigation is the part of the criminal process where evidence is gathered. Law enforcement officials will use various techniques to build an investigative file, which is turned over to the prosecutor. The prosecutor then uses this information to show that the charges are justified.
What Happens During the Investigation?
During the investigation, detectives will be examining every detail of the case to gather evidence against the accused.
Some of the things they might do, include, but are not limited to:
- Conducting pre-arrest interviews
- Making written inquiries
- Searching the accused's property
Thus, the accused will likely have one or more interactions with investigators during this part of the process. Detectives may contact them by phone or show up at their door, asking questions about the alleged offense. They might even have someone close to the accused make inquiries to get them to open up.
Law enforcement officials will use various tactics during the investigation to try to get a confession from the accused. They might lie to the individual or sympathize with them to build trust.
Regardless of your situation or what detectives tell you, you must not talk to investigators or anyone else about the case at all. If law enforcement or anybody else has contacted you about the alleged offense, reach out to me as soon as possible.
What Should I do During an Investigation?
At every stage of a criminal case, the accused has certain rights protecting them from unjust or unfair treatment. If you are being investigated, exercise your rights. Doing so could have a substantial impact on the outcome of your case.
Your rights during an investigation include, but are not limited to:
- Right to remain silent: The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from being a witness against yourself. In other words, you do not have to give any testimony concerning your case. If detectives start asking you questions – either in person or over the phone – you can politely decline to speak with them. You must let them know that you are exercising your right to remain silent and not provide any statements. Unfortunately, many people believe that if they do not have anything to hide, it is okay for them to talk to a detective, as it gives them a chance to address misunderstandings. Even if you are innocent, you should not speak with the police. If you do, you could say things that are later taken out of context and used against you. Also, note that remaining silent does not mean you are guilty, and you cannot be punished for keeping quiet. Always speak with a criminal defense attorney before talking to anyone about your case.
- Right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures: As mentioned earlier, law enforcement officials might search your property to gather evidence against you. However, they cannot go through your things without having a warrant or your consent (some limited exceptions exist). If police officers show up at your door asking to search your home or other property, ask to see the warrant. If they don't have a warrant, let them know you do not consent to the search. If they do have a warrant, you must allow the search – interfering can result in further criminal charges. In either situation, contact your lawyer immediately.
- Right to an attorney: At every stage in your criminal case, you have the right to counsel. A lawyer can advise on what actions to take during the investigation process. They can also ensure that your rights are protected and address any violations that have occurred.
Under Investigation? Speak with an Attorney.
I am dedicated to fighting for the accused and seeking optimal results for them. By getting involved at the early stages of a criminal case, I can begin crafting a compelling defense to point out weaknesses in the evidence.
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