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Law Enforcement Investigations

What to Do When Being Investigated in Lexington, SC

Before Speaking to the Police, Speak with an Attorney

In general, if you are the target of any type of police investigation you should refrain from talking with the police or consenting to any searches until you have consulted with an attorney. If after consultation it is determined to be in your best interests to cooperate with the police, then that that cooperation can be structured in the best way possible. We have seen countless examples of people who thought they were doing the right thing and cooperating with law enforcement, only to find themselves arrested and to have their cooperation used against them.

When appropriate, our office can be formally retained to represent anyone who is the subject of a police investigation. When we are retained we can notify the police in writing not to contact our client and to direct any further inquiries or correspondence to our office.

Retaining a lawyer during the investigative stage of a case may provide you with benefits such as:

  • Avoiding being arrested or formally charged
  • Reducing the severity of any charges brought
  • Minimizing the evidence the prosecutor will have to use against you in trial, increasing the chance of a favorable outcome in court
  • Scheduling a time for you to turn yourself in so as to avoid the police coming to your house in the middle of the night or surprising you at work (if an arrest warrant is obtained)

Many times just retaining a criminal defense lawyer is all that is necessary to have the police close their investigation, since they know that they will not be able to coerce any incriminating statements. We also remain available "on call" in the event that the police execute a search warrant or make an arrest.

Schedule your free consultation pending police investigation or arrest. Contact our office at (803) 359-3301.

Understanding Your Rights During a Police Encounter

Why is talking with the police by myself dangerous?

The South Carolina Department of Corrections is full of inmates who would not be there if they had only remained silent. Anything you say or do during a police investigation will be used against you later in Court. Even statements that you make that are not actually admitting a crime still may be considered incriminating and used as the lawful basis to support a search warrant, arrest or conviction. You should also know that in South Carolina police are allowed to lie to suspects during investigations, and may try to mislead you about their intentions. Police also do not regularly record conversations with suspects, and therefore are free to accidentally or even intentionally misrepresent any statements you made.

If the police leave me a message asking me to call them what should I do?

You should not talk to the police without first consulting with a lawyer. If appropriate a lawyer will advise you to either ignore the call, or to return it on your behalf. You do not have to return messages from the police, and you do not violate any laws by refusing to do so.

If the police ask me to meet with them do I have to?

No. You are not required to meet with the police upon their request. If you are asked to go to the police station, or meet them at any other location you do not have to do so. If you are the subject of the investigation you should not agree to meet with the police under any circumstances until you have first consulted with an attorney.

Is it still dangerous to talk to the police if I haven't been read my Miranda rights?

Yes. Miranda only applies to people who have been arrested or are otherwise determined to be in custody. Anything that you say before then can legally be used against you, even if Miranda was never given. Further if you do talk to the police they will be free to testify in court later as to what they want you to have said, even if it is actually different than what you did say.

What if the police tell me that I must meet with them or answer questions?

Sometimes the police will try to intimidate someone into giving up their rights. Police usually do this because they don't have enough evidence to make an arrest, and are hoping that someone will voluntarily confess or make incriminating statements. Then they can go to a judge to obtain an arrest warrant. If you feel like the police are using "high pressure" tactics with you or a love done that is a warning sign that should not be ignored. You do not have to answer their questions, meet with them, or consent to any searches.

Do I have to let the police into my home or place of business?

No. Police have no right to enter your home or place of business unless you either invite them inside or they have a valid search or arrest warrant. Frequently the best course of action if the police come knocking on your door is to simply ignore them. They may bang on your door and yell loudly for several minutes but eventually they will go away. There is no law that says you must open the door for the police or interact with them in anyway. If the police do have a warrant you should cooperate with them and not try to physically resist. You should still remain silent and not consent to any additional searches until you have consulted with a lawyer.

Should I take a lie detector?

A lie detector, or polygraph, is a police tool used to assist them in obtaining confessions. Although the lie detector test itself is usually not admissible in court, anything that you say to the police or the test administrator is. Lie detector tests are typically requested in cases involving suspected child abuse or embezzlement, although they are also routinely used in murder and other serious investigations.

We assist clients who are innocent, and who we know can pass a lie detector, in having a private polygraph test administered. If you are interested in this process the first step is for you to contact or office to schedule a consultation. Private polygraph test can usually be scheduled the same or very next day. If you can pass a private test then the results, at your instruction, can be forwarded to law enforcement. We have seen many examples where this is enough to cause police to conclude their investigation.

When a private polygraph is administered in our office no one other than you, your attorney and the examiner will ever know the test was attempted or what the outcome was. You do not risk your case in anyway by submitting to a private polygraph in your attorney's office, whereas you might risk everything by improperly consenting to a police test.

We do not recommend that anyone, whether or not they are innocent of the charges, submit to a police polygraph without first consulting with an attorney. The only times that we allow our clients to undergo a police polygraph is when they have fully passed a private examination first, and both our attorney and licensed polygraph examiner have concluded that doing so is in our client's best interest.

When stopped for suspicion of DUI in South Carolina what are my rights?

You have several important rights when dealing with a DUI investigation, and by properly applying these rights you may help avoid a lengthy traffic stop or an unnecessary arrest. The more cooperative someone is with the police during a DUI stop the greater the likelihood is that they will be arrested, arrested for a more serious charge, and have more evidence to be used against them in court.

You have a right to remain silent. This means that you do not have to discuss with police whether or not you have consumed alcohol, prescription medication or other substances. Police may not believe you if you admit to only having a "couple", so often you are better off just declining to answer any questions.

You do not have to perform field sobriety tests. Before police arrest someone for DUI they usually will ask them to perform a series of physical or mental divided attention tests. This may include looking into your eyes (HGN), walk and turn, one leg stand, or other tests unique to a particular officer. These tests are not mandatory in South Carolina and you cannot be charged with any offense for declining to participate. These tests are designed to assist police in obtaining DUI convictions, not in helping people avoid false arrests.

Finally you do not have to provide a breath sample. If you choose to provide a sample you may actually be charged with a higher level DUI offense than if you had refused. The police will tell you that if you refuse you will lose your driver's license, but there are procedures in South Carolina to help you have your license restored in as little as one week.

Should I provide a DNA sample?

Sometimes law enforcement will attempt to match up suspects DNA with a sample that they believe is connected to a crime scene. There have been numerous examples of individuals who have cooperated with this process, only to later be charged with a serious crime based on nothing more than a suspected DNA match. Although there are court procedures that police can go through to compel someone to provide a DNA sample, this always requires that the police have a sufficient reason and amount of evidence first.

The law does not require that police have any evidence against you first before they can ask you to submit a sample. You have an absolute right to refuse to provide any type of DNA sample absent a court order. Samples include blood, hair, "cheek swabs", and the like. If you provide a sample it will likely be used to conduct a national crime search, meaning that even if you have no involvement in the case the police are investigating, you still may be connected to other cases.

Our recommendation is that you not agree to provide any DNA sample until you have first meet with an attorney.

What if the police want to question my child?

Children have the exact same right to remain silent as an adult does. This means children or their parents or guardians do not violate any law or get in trouble for refusing to answer police questions. Children are often encouraged to voluntarily meet with police and cooperate with their investigation. This can backfire and cause children

Additionally police will sometimes try to intimidate a parent into allowing a warrantless search of a child's bedroom or personal effects. You and your child both have an absolute right to not consent to warrantless searches. If the police request that you waive this right it is best that you hold off doing so until you have had to meet with a lawyer.

How do I refuse to honor a police request?

We have an adversarial criminal justice system in America. As a result it is not rude or impolite to refuse to answer police questions or to honor their requests. All you are required to do is to advise the police that you wish to take advantage of your rights and will not be answering questions or consenting to any searches. You do not have to give a reason. You will not face additional charges for refusing to waive your rights. After you let them know you are not answering questions you may wish to ask if you are free to leave.

Always be polite. "Yes sir" and "no sir" can go a long way. Sometimes police won't take no for an answer and may try to force their way into your car or your home. Don't try to physically stop them. Just make sure you are clearly not consenting and then their actions can be challenged in court later. Never physically challenge police or resist an arrest. If you have already retained our office and are contacted by the police for any reason, simply refer them to us.

Under investigation in Lexington, Columbia or elsewhere in South Carolina?

If police officers asked to search your property, gave you a search warrant for your property, or subpoenaed an outside party for documents that point to you, then it is safe to say that you are under investigation. If this is the situation, it is vital that you understand that you are a suspect and that you must take cautious steps. An arrest warrant can be issued at any point, which is why it is extremely beneficial to protect your future by hiring a Lexington criminal defense lawyer.

At the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, we are here to serve you. We can help you understand the investigation process and what steps to take. Contact us today!


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