The one thing that might be more stressful than being arrested for a criminal offense is knowing you are a suspect in a crime and having to wait around for the other shoe to drop. Whether you actually committed a crime or not, you could find yourself in just that situation at some point in your life. If you do become a suspect, how should you handle the situation? Should you cooperate with the police? Should you hire a criminal defense attorney right away? Should you start worrying about a defense? What should you do if you become a suspect in a crime? Although every situation is unique, there are some fairly well-established steps you should take as well as some things you should not do if you find yourself the suspect in a criminal investigation.
Check Your Sources — How Do You Know You Are a Suspect?
Perhaps the most immediate concern is to verify the information you have regarding your status as a suspect. What makes you believe that you are a suspect? If you spoke directly to a law enforcement officer who told you that he/she considers you a suspect, that is clearly a reliable source. Likewise, if the investigation is federal you may get an actual letter in the mail letting you know that you are the target of an investigation which is another reliable source. More often than not, however, your status as a suspect is not as clear-cut. For example, you may be contacted by a detective who wants to talk to you; however, the detective may not come right out and tell you that you are considered a suspect. On the contrary, the detective may make it sound as though you are not a suspect at this time when, in fact, you are or might be in the near future. You might also hear from friends or family that the police are looking for you or that a detective has contacted your family or place of employment trying to get in touch with you. While it is never good to panic and assume the worst, when the police want to speak to you it is best to be prepared. You may only be considered a witness or it could be that the police think you have information about someone else who is a suspect; however, it is best to approach any contact with the police with caution. In all of these scenarios, your next move should be to contact a criminal defense attorney.
Things Not to Do
This is a good time to mention some things you should not do if you believe you are a suspect in a criminal investigation, such as:
- Talking to the police — whether you have confirmed your status as a suspect or not, never agree to talk to the police without first talking to a criminal defense attorney.
- Discussing the case with friends/family – if you end up being charged with a crime, the prosecutor can force anyone you spoke to about the case to be a witness for the State and testify against you. Don’t put yourself, or your friends/family, in that position.
- Panic and run/hide – among the worst things you can do is to panic and take off or go into hiding. Either will certainly make you a suspect if you weren’t already.
Consult with a Criminal Defense Attorney
The moment you have reason to believe you are a suspect in a criminal investigation you need to arrange for a consultation with a criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can look into the case and confirm that you are, indeed, a suspect or put your mind at ease by determining that you are not a suspect. An attorney can also discuss strategy with you at this stage of the investigation. Sometimes it is best to agree to talk to the police; however, only with your attorney present. In other situations, silence is best. Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty and that the State (via the prosecuting attorney) has the burden of proving your guilt. Particularly at this stage of an investigation, you do not need to prove anything to the authorities and you certainly are not required to cooperate with the police.
Contact a Tennessee Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are concerned that you are a suspect in a criminal investigation in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.