I got a card on my door – should I call this detective back?
You get home from work one night and there’s a business card on your front door. It’s from an investigator or detective from the police department. There’s a hand-written note on the back, “Please call me.”
What’s the harm in calling back?
Before you can safely answer that, do you know with 100% certainty why they want to talk to you? Are you being accused of a crime and they’re looking for a statement they can use against you? Do they have a warrant for your arrest and are trying to figure out when you’re home so they can come scoop you up? Are you a potential witness to a crime, but if you say the wrong thing, you can easily talk yourself into being involved at some level? What should you do?
First – think hard. Why is a cop looking for you?
You’re a suspect in a criminal case.
Here are some problems with calling them back blindly:
First, over the phone, you’re not “in custody,” so they have no obligation to read you your Miranda rights or otherwise warn you about using your statement against you. There’s no such thing as “off the record” when it comes to discussing a criminal case with an investigator. Assume anything you say can and will be used against you, even if they don’t warn you first. Even if you just admit even being present at an incident, you may have given them a positive I.D., sealing the deal for them.
Next, even if you make a statement that denies any involvement with whatever they’re investigating, how can you be sure they’re writing down your statement accurately? What if you make in innocent misstatement about certain times you got somewhere or when you left? You could have blown an alibi defense or made a statement that’s tough to get away from later.
Maybe they have a warrant for your arrest.
Let’s face it. Budgets are tight everywhere. If they have an arrest warrant for you, they can sit on your house until you come home, but unless it’s a serious violent offense, they probably won’t waste the manpower to do that. If you call them and they find out you’re home, they can then go out and scoop you up.
What’s the big deal? If they have a warrant, won’t they arrest you anyway? Maybe. If you contact an attorney, they can determine if there’s a warrant for you, how much the bail amount is and whether or not a surrender can be arranged without having to go into custody. Even if you have to turn yourself in, you can make arrangements ahead of time to have a bail bondsman waiting so you don’t have to spend time in jail.
I’m just a witness. How could it hurt to call them back?
Are you sure? Depending on the facts and circumstances, a person’s involvement (or what they think they can prove your involvement was) can make a huge difference. If by making a statement about being present somewhere during a crime, even if you think you’re distancing yourself from it, could get you involved. How? There are two ways to be involved as a principal in a criminal case: Those that actually do the crime and those that “aid and abet.” (See this link for more details.) If they think your presence in any way encouraged or facilitated the underlying crime, you’ve just landed in the middle of a criminal case. A person who aids and abets can be charged and punished just the same as the one that did the crime. If you tell them that you “just drove your friend home,” you could be admitting to being an accessory – a crime in and of itself.
Be safe. If the police are looking for you, they’re not out to protect your interests. It’s up to you. Contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss things. Maybe it is no big deal, but before you make a huge mistake, figure out what’s really going on.