If you are the victim or witness to any crime, police will ask you for a written or in certain instances video recorded statement that can serve as evidence in court proceedings.
Law enforcement agencies often conduct interviews or interrogations soon after critical incidents have taken place, yet research shows that delaying interviews or interrogations could produce more accurate statements from civilians.
You are a Witness
If a police officer believes you witnessed a crime and has asked for your statement, it can be distressing and difficult to talk about what you saw. But remembering their duty to investigate all reports of criminal acts requires cooperation; what you state may also be used as evidence in court proceedings so be careful what you say to them at all times.
This may involve providing either a written or, in certain instances, video recorded statement in order to ensure your witness statement is as accurate as possible. When recording your statement, an officer will explain how it works before conducting their interview; and in some cases involving young people or victims of sexual crimes such as trafficking, police will bring recording equipment directly to their home or other venue instead of forcing you to attend police headquarters for interviewing purposes.
Once your witness statement has been composed, an officer will read it to you and request your signature as verification that what has been said is accurate to the best of your knowledge and memory. Giving false information to police can result in criminal charges being laid against you.
Cross-examination refers to when lawyers for those who called you as witnesses question you about what you saw or know – this process is called cross-examination. Bringing notes along can help remind yourself what was said during testimony.
Witnesses are entitled to travel expenses when attending court in response to a summons or subpoena, so if you find yourself called upon as a witness but do not wish to testify it is important that you contact PACT immediately and arrange to meet with them to discuss this further. They can also assist in getting free counselling in order to recover from emotional and psychological effects associated with being victim or witness of crime.
You are a Victim
As part of a crime investigation, both witnesses and victims may be asked by police for statements as part of their investigations. This may take place either at the scene of an incident where police want to collect information from those present; otherwise they may call or visit your home (or hospital if applicable) during this process.
If you are the victim of violent crime and being interviewed by law enforcement officials, it is in your best interests not to say anything that could be used as evidence against you. You have a legal right to remain silent, so only speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer when advised. Providing advice as well as guidance in decision making.
Victims can submit written statements, or, in more sensitive cases such as sexual offense, police may use video recording equipment. You will often have someone present when making their statement.
Police will ask you about what occurred and any additional details. You can choose whether or not to answer all the questions; more information helps the investigation immensely; they will keep a copy of your statement for use if the accused is ultimately found guilty.
Remember, however, that it could take several months from when an incident takes place to when court proceedings commence. Should something come to your memory after making your initial statement it may be worthwhile notifying police immediately so they can make necessary arrangements for further inquiries or make amends as appropriate.
After an offender has been sentenced for their crimes, victims can have the chance to file a victim impact statementOpens In A New Window detailing how those crimes have affected your life. This allows victims to express how these offenses have caused harm.
You Have a Right to Remain Silent
Police often request statements from witnesses of crimes, regardless if they have anything to do with them, because the information can help build their case against those being investigated. Any information given can be used against you so it’s wise to remember your right to remain silent when speaking with authorities.
When giving a statement, be honest and include everything that came to your mind about what transpired. You may wish to have someone present who can provide support – if desired.
Many feel compelled to provide statements because they believe it is their civic duty to cooperate with law enforcement. If you suspect or believe yourself implicated in criminal activity, however, it is wise to exercise your right not to speak up at every opportunity.
Answers given to law enforcement officers may be used against you in court and arrested based on anything said or done during questioning, so the framers of the Fifth Amendment enacted it to protect citizens from being forced into incriminating themselves against law.
When being interrogated by police about suspected criminal activities or they believe you might be implicated, the best course of action is to invoke your right to remain silent and request legal representation. Even if not arrested, seeking representation might still be advantageous as evidence obtained improperly may be used against you in court proceedings.
Police do not always respect your rights and can be intimidating, so always proceed with caution before speaking with them. If you don’t already have one or are uncertain of your legal standing, speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible; an experienced criminal attorney will help explain your options as well as provide advice about whether or not giving a statement would be wise and what to expect should such an event arise.
You Have a Right to Represent Yourself
No matter whether you are a witness or suspect, the law protects your right to representation. While speaking directly with police without an attorney present may seem like a good idea at first, doing so often ends up backfiring as many individuals can end up making statements that later lead to charges of lying and other serious offenses.
An experienced Oakland criminal defense attorney can guide you in providing statements to police. However, until consulting with legal representation first, be prepared to say as little as possible until speaking with legal counsel first.
Even if you decide to provide the police with a statement, do not feel obligated to make it lengthy. In fact, the longer your statement is the greater is its likelihood that something you say could be used against you in court proceedings.
Be wary that any statement you provide to police will likely be used against you later, both as evidence and as an authoritative document when filing criminal charges and prosecuting. No matter how well-meaning an officer may seem, any information given could eventually be used against you in court proceedings.
Additionally, it is crucial to keep in mind that police officers often employ intimidation tactics in order to coerce witnesses or suspects into giving statements against themselves that will eventually lead to arrests. They might use threats of criminal charges such as telling you you owe an obligation to speak or that criminal charges could follow for resisting an executive officer or obstructing justice, among other methods of coercion.
To best defend yourself against this situation, it is best to invoke your right to remain silent and request that an attorney be present during questioning. By giving any statement at all, it could cost you dearly in terms of consequences.