If you have received a phone call from a Fort Worth police detective (or any other law enforcement officer in Texas) informing you that you are under a police investigation, it is critical that you do not try to navigate this dangerous situation alone.
At The Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC, we are a team of criminal defense attorneys that focus exclusively on criminal defense in the North Texas area. Our team of criminal defense lawyers are all Former Tarrant County Prosecutors with a combined prosecutorial and defense experience of over 70 years. We have dealt with every phase of the criminal justice system and want to make sure you know what your rights are if you receive a phone call from a detective.
Our criminal attorneys deal with prospective clients on a daily basis who call us and tell us that they spoke to a detective about an investigation without an attorney present. In many of these situations, the detective takes advantage of the situation and subjects the citizen to interrogation which leads to innocent statements crafted to appear that the citizen is guilty of a crime.
Why Would a Detective Call Me?
It is important to understand that police investigations do not take place like we see on TV or in the movies. Wondering why a detective would call you? If a detective has called you and asked you to come in for an interview, you must know your rights and understand the risks associated with a voluntary interview with a criminal investigator. The primary goal of every criminal investigator is to collect enough evidence to establish probable cause for an arrest and seek a conviction for a crime. A detective will call often when police do not make an arrest at the time they respond to a call. So, a detective will often call you attempting to get you to make a statement. Assume the phone call is recorded.
Detectives are trained to investigate criminal cases by befriending their suspects to gain important information through interrogations. In fact, in more serious cases it is common to find detectives working as a team to manipulate you to do what they want. This team of detectives may work as a “good cop” and “bad cop” routine where one detective acts like he is your friend and there to help you; whereas the other detective will be harsh and threatening to you, acting as if he is ready to arrest you immediately and ruin your life. Be prepared for this tactic if you choose to conduct an interview with a detective.
If a Detective Calls You, Do You Have to Talk?
Do not be deceived by a criminal investigator’s claim that they want to be your friend and their promises that they just want to “help you out.” Police detectives initiate criminal investigations for one reason: they plan to close the criminal investigation with a conviction.
You may be wondering, “If a detective calls me, do I have to talk?” Despite what law enforcement may imply, Texas law does not require you to participate in a criminal investigation interview. If a detective calls you, you have the right to terminate the interview at any time. If you are uncomfortable with the way a detective is questioning you, stop the interview immediately. If you are not under arrest, you have the right to walk out at any time. If you are under arrest, you can refuse to answer further questions until you have an attorney present.
For example: a client was pulled over leaving a “known drug house” and threatened that he should allow the police to search his vehicle. Our client, an inexperienced first-time offender, was scared to death so he allowed the police to conduct the search. The search revealed a bag of drugs that constituted a 3rd degree felony. At this point, the narcotics officers tried to make our client a deal: either you cooperate with us and do what you are told and answer all of our questions, or you will be arrested and go to prison for 10 years. In reality, this would have never happened to the client but the police were playing on the fact that our client was a first-time offender and did not know the law. Our client then chose to cooperate and answer every question the detective asked him. Unfortunately, our client was deceived and manipulated. The officers decided that the information that was provided was not good enough to warrant working a deal and they chose to arrest our client and use his statements against him on his drug case.
If you choose to participate in a voluntary interview with a criminal investigator, you must educate yourself regarding your legal rights and Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination before and during the interview:
- You have a right to terminate your interview at any time– despite what the criminal investigator may tell you when you arrive, you are not required by Texas law to participate in an interview. If you decide to participate, you have the right to terminate the interview at any time and for any reason. If you begin the interview and you begin to feel uncomfortable with the police detective’s tone and accusations, you have the absolute right to stand up and walk out of the interview and decline to participate further.
- You have a right to remain silent during the interview– whether you are under arrest or merely being asked to participate in a voluntary interview as part of a criminal investigation, you have an absolute right to remain silent during any questioning. If you are placed under arrest, the police will be required to read you your Miranda rights (which includes the right to remain silent). If the police fail to provide you your Miranda rights prior to questioning, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the responses to such questioning will be deemed inadmissible in a criminal court. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being arrested and asked to answer questions by a detective, resist the temptation to explain your innocence to the detective and protect yourself by invoking your right to remain silent.
- You have a right to have an attorney present during your interview– every citizen facing a criminal investigation has a right to legal representation. A common tactic used by criminal investigators is to attempt to make you feel like a criminal for wanting the assistance of an attorney. If a detective claims you are “lawyering up,” just kindly remind him that you are not a criminal and you do not know your legal rights and will willingly answer all of his questions when your attorney is present at the interview.
If The Police Don’t Read Miranda Rights, Will My Case Be Dismissed?
Not necessarily. Miranda rights only address the admissibility of a confession. In order for Miranda rights to apply to your criminal case, there are a few prerequisites:
- You must be in custody – what does it mean to be in custody? Under the US and Texas criminal law, the term “in custody” refers to being unable to leave. In other words, it does not matter what the police officer claims in his report. He may have told you that you were free to leave at any time. However, if he created circumstances that objectively made you believe you were not free to leave, then you may be deemed to have been “in custody.”
- You must be interrogated – if the court rules that you were “in custody,” the next question will be whether you were interrogated. What does interrogation mean? Did the police ask you questions or did you spontaneously provide information or evidence to the detective? Any statements that you provided that were not in response to a question, are not protected under the Miranda rights. As such, these statements would be admissible in court against you. It is important to realize that if you agree to go in and speak with a detective, you are not going to be allowed to give a narrative story about what happened. Instead, you will be interrogated with a list of “yes” and “no” questions. This creates a distinct possibility that the questions themselves will be unfair. Unfair questions make it easy for short answers to be twisted into something that looks like a confession. Remember, Miranda rights are designed to protect citizens from police manipulation that leads to false confessions. Don’t let the police manipulate you and take advantage of your desire to prove your innocence.
What Should You Do If A Detective Is A Calling You Now?
Be polite to the detective and delay giving an answer about your willingness to meet for an interview. After completing your call with the detective, contact an experienced and aggressive Fort Worth criminal defense attorney near you to guide you on your next move.
If you choose to speak to the detective, everything you say can and will be used against you. Additionally, the detective could twist and manipulate your words to make it appear you are saying something you did not mean. At that point, it will be your word against the detective’s word and that puts you at a distinct disadvantage.
If you contact an experienced Texas criminal attorney, he or she can immediately call the detective. The moment you hire a nearby criminal defense lawyer, you are exercising your 6th Amendment right to counsel and the detective will be prohibited from contacting you further.
If a Detective Calls You, Call a Top-Rated Texas Criminal Defense Attorney
Maybe you have some exculpatory evidence that can be provided to the detective? If so, your Texas criminal defense attorney can do the talking for you to make certain that the information is not manipulated to be used against you. One important distinction to remember is that although everything you say can be used against you, everything your criminal defense lawyer says is hearsay, and can not be used against you. As such, your criminal attorney can convey all the evidence and contextual information necessary to ensure the detective understands what is really going on and creates a possibility that the criminal investigation is stopped.
For example: We had a client who was being investigated for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He had been driven up on by a son-in-law who had threatened him in the past. In fact, this son-in-law had assaulted our client in the past and had threatened to kill him. On this day in question, our client had heard an exchange over the phone between his wife and the son-in-law. Our client believed that his wife was in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. He grabbed his gun and his phone and rushed to the park where the incident was taking place. As he made his way to the park, the son-in-law drove up from behind him and our client became in fear for his life that he would be run over. As a result, he pulled out his gun, took a defensive position, and also took a video of the incident. Of course, the son-in-law claimed to the police that he was the victim of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The detective wanted to sit down with our client and have him conduct an interview where he could answer some questions. We explained to our client all the concerns and risks regarding an interview. Our client decided that he wanted our Fort Worth criminal defense law firm to speak on his behalf. We spoke with the detective and provided a copy of the video of the incident and agreed to answer any questions the detective had through our attorneys. Although the detective was disappointed that we did not allow him to question our client, he reluctantly agreed to share his concerns and questions with us. This protected the client from his words being twisted and manipulated while allowing us to clarify what happened by providing the video and additional evidence. Ultimately, the case was dismissed because of our client’s decision not to submit himself to an interview with the detective.
Contact an Experienced Fort Worth Criminal Defense Lawyer Near You
If you are facing a call from a detective and you are being actively investigated, contact The Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC for an opportunity to speak to one of our team of Former Prosecutors. For a more thorough explanation of your legal rights and options under Texas law, call criminal lawyer Jeff Hampton at The Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC at 817-826-9905 for a free case evaluation.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. He has been named one of the 3 Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, recognized by Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, Avvo, and others, and he is Lead Counsel rated.