What do you need to do to protect yourself when you are being questioned by police, law enforcement or investigative agencies?

The statement, "I want a lawyer" is the simplest answer, and the best answer, to protect yourself and your rights during questioning by law enforcement officials, police and investigators. For most people, simply repeating, "I want a lawyer," is difficult to do because it conflicts with the natural, human desire to cooperate and to be "helpful" to those people who are investigating a criminal offense. Do not assume that the police or other law enforcement officers are your friends. You must repeat clearly, precisely and firmly repeat the statement, "I want a lawyer," no matter what you are being asked to say, do or sign.

The law is clear that all questioning must cease when a suspect states, clearly and unambiguously, that he wants a lawyer (in other words, you should never say, "I think I want a lawyer;" and you should never ask, "Do I need a lawyer?"). You must be very clear, precise and firm, and keep stating four words: "I want a lawyer," until the authorities provide you with access to a lawyer, who will then use his professional training and knowledge of the law to assist you in taking the legal action that will be in your best interest.

Sometimes, over-zealous, unprofessional law enforcement officials will be smart aleck and say something like, "We don't have any attorneys at this hour," or they may threaten to lock you up or detain you for as long as the law will allow before providing you with a lawyer. Then you can say, "I want to see a judge." If the authorities say there are no judges available at that hour, then go back to repeating the statement, "I want a lawyer." Although there are many exceptions, most law enforcement authorities, who act professionally, will respect your request to have an attorney. It is in your best interest to have an experienced attorney present BEFORE you answer any question by a law enforcement officer, no matter what the officer has promised you.

stop-talkingAfter you have CLEARLY asked for a lawyer, STOP TALKING! The law states that police interrogation must stop immediately when a suspect clearly asks for a lawyer. However, you can accidently cancel (or waive) your request for a lawyer if you keep talking to law enforcement, because it may then appear that you don't mind being questioned, after all.

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