This week, our criminal lawyers discuss a son's concern about his Dad talking to police about a cold case from the 1970s.
The Question: Police came to talk to my Dad about an acquaintance who disappeared in the late 1970s. He told them everything he could remember about it, but now they want him to "come down to the station" to talk more. Should he bring a lawyer with him?
My father had an acquaintance (17-year-old girl, he was a few years older) who went missing in the late 1970s. She was never found and the case has been completely unresolved since.
The other day my parents got a knock on the door, and it was a detective who asked to speak with my father. From what my dad told me, he essentially asked for all my father's recollections about this woman. My dad told the cop everything he remembered about the woman, which isn't much, and the cop left without anything happening.
The cop did tell my dad why he paid a visit, which is apparently because one of my dad's friends called the police station and said my dad might have information about her disappearance. This former friend is a nut and a conspiracy theorist who has an axe to grind against my dad, so we think he's just screwing with my dad by siccing the cops on him for no reason.
Another officer called my dad today and asked him to "come down to the station" this coming Friday morning. We have no idea why, they apparently want to "discuss it further" with him.
I'm going to call the state's bar association tomorrow to get in touch with a criminal defense lawyer. I don't know if I'm being paranoid or not, but the whole thing reeks to me and I admittedly don't trust cops in general. I basically don't want my dad to get screwed. Is it too much to go in with a lawyer for something like this?
The Answer: Yes. It is always advisable to have an attorney with you when questioned by police. Having an attorney is not an admission of guilt, it's just being smart. If you have a medical issue, you see a doctor. Have a car issue? See a mechanic. And, if you have a legal issue, get a lawyer.
You are not paranoid or overreacting about the situation your father finds himself positioned in. Anytime police want to "talk," it means they want to interrogate, which means they will press for information and try to get what they are looking for out of your Dad.
Your father should take an attorney with him down to the police station for questioning. He is not admitting guilt by bringing a lawyer. He's just smart. We as Americans have our Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights protecting us from self-incrimination and having an attorney present when questioned.
A lawyer will advise you what questions to answer and which ones not to answer because they are leading or have nothing to do with the investigation. The police are looking to make a case, so they will do everything to try and make a charge if they think you're guilty. Having an attorney can make sure you don't get trapped or put in the wrong spot.
Since this is a cold case investigation about a missing person, kidnapping or murder charges could likely be brought, depending on if they find the woman alive or dead. Even if law enforcement doesn't find a "body," they may go through with homicide charges when they believe their evidence is strong enough.
Legal counsel knows when police are attempting to make a charge stick and will help your Dad avoid getting screwed. Innocent people do go to jail, and lawyers help make sure that doesn't happen.
Experts are that for a reason, they have expertise in an area you don't. You trust seeing a doctor when something is wrong with your health, and you go to a mechanic when something breaks on your car, so when you have a legal matter to handle, call a lawyer. After all, attorneys are experts in the legal field.
Our automatic disclaimer: We're lawyers, but not necessarily your lawyer, and do not represent the individual who asked this question. We're providing this information for general educational purposes based on the publicly available information provided by the anonymous Internet user. Any number of details may change how this individual's attorney may pursue this legal situation, differently from how we suppose above. If you have a similar question, then you should consult with a lawyer about your specific situation to get a "real" response!