Explanations and Definitions
The information on the pages in this section will help you understand what is happening with your case, what to expect, different phrases you will hear, and more.
While not a complete run-down of the entire Justice System, after reading this section you will have a much better understanding of what is happening to you now, and what will happen to you as you go along.
Interview vs. Interrogation: Technically, an interview occurs before an arrest and an interrogation takes place after an arrest, but things don't always work out that way.
An interview is when law enforcement has not made a determination about your involvement in a crime. You might merely be considered a witness, or it may be that you are a suspect or person of interest.
A police interview is a fact-finding interaction and not adversarial or accusatory like an interrogation. Still, it is always best to have a witness present when speaking with law enforcement in reference to a crime in which you may be at risk of arrest.
Be aware that statements made by you during an interview OR PRIOR TO AN INTERVIEW are just as likely to end up in court as a statement you make at any other time. When you are being regarded as a suspect in a crime, the police DO NOT enter into idle chit-chat with you. Each action and every sentence has the goal of getting you to admit to a crime.
Keep in mind at all times that if there is the possibility that law enforcement considers you a suspect, they are NOT your friend and there is little or nothing you can do to make them your friend. See You and Law Enforcement
Please be aware that law enforcement may decide to arrest you at any time during an interview, or change the tone of the interview to that of an interrogation. It is very, very easy to incriminate yourself without meaning to do so and once you have, law enforcement's attitude toward you will change.
If at all possible, have law enforcement come to your home to speak with you in the presence of a trustworthy friend or relative; take notes and try to have a tape recorder running in plain view.
If the officer refuses to interview you with a tape recorder running, then stop right there and get an attorney.
If it is not possible for law enforcement to come to you and you must go to the station, then follow the same rules as above or request that an attorney be present. Having an attorney present IS NOT an admission of guilt; it's just a good business practice.
If you are arrested and read your rights, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. DO NOT WAIVE YOUR RIGHTS. ASK FOR AN ATTORNEY!!
Waiving your rights does not demonstrate your innocence in any way, nor does it make you appear to be a friend of the police. Asking for an attorney is not an admission of guilt, it is your right! See Know Your Miranda Rights and How to Use Them.
Your are free to leave a friendly interview or one that turns into an interrogation AT ANY TIME prior to being arrested and read your Miranda Rights. That is the law.