When someone is arrested by law enforcement, it is quite common that they had no idea they were being investigated for suspected criminal conduct. When someone is suspected of involvement in any kind of criminal activity, the police are free to investigate in any manner that does not violate the target of the investigation’s constitutional rights.
If you have even a suspicion that you may be under investigation, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer before you do anything else. Representing people suspected or accused of crimes is a special area of law that is unlike any other legal practice. If possible, in the Tampa – St. Petersburg area, or anywhere in Hillsborough or Pinellas Counties, contact a Board-Certified Criminal Defense Lawyer. Achieving board certification in the practice of criminal defense law is a testament to the lawyer’s dedication to the cause of justice and to maintaining the highest standards of excellence in the profession.
How to Know If You Are Under Police Investigation
Local, state, and federal law enforcement have an almost unlimited amount of financial and manpower resources that can be assigned to a criminal investigation. The suspected criminal activity can be under investigation for days, weeks, or months.
There is no law that requires the police to notify you that you are under investigation. The investigations conducted by police and government agents before any arrest occurs are sometimes called a “Pre-File Investigation” because it is conducted before any criminal charge is filed.
How can you know if you are being investigated? — Investigations require the police to detect and collect evidence. Evidence can exist in many forms and can be obtained through a wide range of investigative techniques:
- interviewing witnesses
- police contact you
- live surveillance of your home, your movements, your visitors
- video surveillance
- lawfully authorized wiretaps
- search warrants for homes, offices, vehicles, etc.,
- search warrants for telephone records
- search warrant for forensic evidence (DNA, hair, fiber, fingerprints, etc.)
- use of confidential informants and undercover agents
- collection of abandoned trash
Witness Interviews — Witnesses interviewed by police often find the experience remarkable enough to tell someone about it. If the witness is a friend or relative of yours, they may reach out to let you know the police were asking questions about you or your associates.
Police Contact You — Police often contact the person under investigation to ask them to answer questions. They may visit you at your home or work, or they may request that you come down to their office to speak with them. You have no obligation to answer any questions the police ask or to voluntarily visit the police station. You have the right to remain silent.
(Why remain silent: If the police already possessed enough evidence to arrest you for a crime, they will do so whether you answer questions or refuse to answer. If the police do not already possess enough evidence to arrest you, then you will only give them additional evidence by speaking with them. Why provide them with the evidence they need to arrest you?)
Instead, as soon as you are contacted by police, you should immediately consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you feel uncomfortable telling the police you don’t want to answer questions, you can tell them you will contact your attorney, and then your attorney will accompany you for any questions.
The police and you both know your attorney will not advise you to answer questions. Do not be intimidated into agreeing to answer questions without your lawyer present. You have the right to remain silent. Use it.
Surveillance — Professional law enforcement investigators are trained and experienced in watching a subject without being seen. However, an observant person can notice seeing the same vehicle throughout the day, or spotting an unusual car parked in the street on your block on multiple occasions. Though you may be overly suspicious about a mere coincidence, contacting a criminal defense lawyer immediately is a wise step if you know of any grounds an investigation might be underway.
Wiretaps / Electronic Surveillance — With the advanced technology developed over the past decade, it is unlikely that you would know if you were the subject of a court-ordered wiretap. However, it is advisable to refrain from any discussion of sensitive matters when communicating by phone, computer, email, or text. The law does require your telephone carrier to notify you if a court-authorized warrant was served on the company and documents were turned over in response to a court order. Typically, the notice will be delayed until the company is relieved from any order not to notify you. However, in the event no arrest occurs, you would receive notice of the warrant after the fact.
Search Warrants — If law enforcement authorities obtain a search warrant for your home, office, or other property you own, the law requires that you be served with a copy of the warrant and the affidavit in sworn in support of the warrant application.
Confidential Informants or Undercover Agents — Realizing that an investigative agent has entered your circle of associates is difficult to notice. However, if a new acquaintance seems overly active in engaging in conversation, asks probing questions, or encourages you to move forward in some criminal activity, it may be a sign that you are under investigation and that the new person is either an informant or an agent of law enforcement.
Call Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers Immediately If You Are Being Investigated
At Tampa’s Stechschulte Nell Criminal Defense Law Firm, Ben Stechschulte is among the small percentage of Board-Certified Criminal Defense Lawyers in Florida. They represent people who are under investigation even if no arrest has occurred yet. In fact, by contacting experienced criminal defense lawyers as soon as you learn of an investigation, your lawyers will often contact the police investigators directly.
First, your lawyer will instruct the police not to question you unless the lawyer is present. Second, your lawyer will usually be able to learn the nature of the investigation, the amount of evidence already developed, and whether the investigators intend to arrest you. If they do, your lawyer can make mutually convenient, controlled arrangements to ensure your uneventful processing and speedy release.
Call our attorneys at Stechschulte Nell for a case review today; 813-280-1244.