For most people, casual interactions with the police are commonplace. You may pass New York State Troopers in your car or local officers as you walk down the sidewalk. However, there are few instances more confusing and intimidating than being stopped or questioned by the police. Whether you are stopped for suspicious behavior or called in for questioning, these interactions can cause your heart rate to quicken and palms to sweat. Even perfectly innocent individuals feel this pressure.
Within the first seconds of these more intimidating interactions with police, you must make a decision regarding how much to say to the officer or officers. The main quandary that comes to mind is how much to tell the police? If you understand your rights and already know the legal requirements for answering an officer’s questions, what you say and how you say it becomes a lot easier.
For a number of years New York City had an intense and widely used stop-and-frisk program. Under this law, officers were given broad power to stop individuals on the street and search their person. It is a policy that was ruled unconstitutional in 2013 because it was unequally and inappropriately applied to persons of color. Its opponents lauded the discriminatory effect of stop-and-frisk for years before this ruling.
This ruling significantly curtailed the power police had to forcefully search a citizen and procure information. As well, officers are no longer allowed to question individuals simply based on proximity to a building or other location.
This is good for the average citizen, whether innocent or guilty of any illegal activity. However, remember that officers are unlikely to stop any person they believe entirely innocent of a crime. So, if you are stopped on the street for suspicious behavior, it is best to remain silent or succinctly answer questions posed by an officer. If you have to err on the side of caution, I would not answer anything asked by a police officer except to show them identification (if requested) and to insist that your lawyer be present prior to, and during, any questioning by law enforcement.
Even if you are placed under arrest you are never required by the law to speak with the police. Even in this extreme situation, you are read your Miranda Rights and given the right to remain silent. Therefore, if an officer calls to speak with you regarding a criminal investigation, there is no legal requirement that you oblige.
In fact, the best course of action if you are called by a detective or visited by an officer in regards to a crime is straightforward. You should only speak to the officer with your lawyer present. This applies whether the officer is investigating you for a crime, someone you know, or criminal activity that you may have witnessed. While this might be counterintuitive for an innocent person, it will prevent you from providing information that is self-incriminating, false, or unnecessary.
In general, your approach to a police encounter should be consistent. Remain calm, stay courteous, and wait to speak with your lawyer before proceeding. If you do not have a defense attorney on your side, it is time to find a legal representative that is qualified and experienced.
The lawyers at Greco Neyland, PC in New York City have discussed police interactions with many clients, and we are prepared to answer your questions regarding police interactions and questioning. You can always reach our office at (212)-951-1300.
The information in this blog post (“Post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this Post should be construed as legal advice from Greco Neyland Attorneys at Law or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.