Police interviews are a staple of crime dramas and procedurals.
And as with many other aspects of legal practice, they’re also often misunderstood by those who have an interview coming up.
Many go into their interview with ideas shaped by TV and movies – in other words, the wrong idea of what to expect. As a result, many are unprepared for how a real-life police interview goes, going in with the wrong idea of:
- What they need to do
- How interviews work
- How to protect themselves from self-incriminating
- Their rights
And Google isn’t much help either – type in “how to prepare for a police interview” and many of the results are actually about the police recruitment process!
Our criminal lawyers in Dandenong have sat in on many police interviews over the years. As experienced criminal solicitors, we can explain what you should expect, as well as what you need to do to prepare.
Everything you need to know about police interviews
Your legal rights
The right to silence is just one of the rights you can exercise going into a police interview – you can also exercise your right to:
- Inform relatives of your whereabouts and make arrangements
- Know why you’re being interviewed
- Medical treatment (if required)
- Privacy from the media
- An interpreter (if needed – the police will foot the bill)
The most important of these rights is your right to get in touch with a criminal solicitor.
A criminal lawyer can provide advice over the phone, or in cases where you know the time and date for your interview, your lawyer can even attend in-person, guiding you through questioning.
Police are required to inform you of each of these rights before the interview starts, before providing you with a caution that outlines your right to silence, as well as the fact that anything you say could be used as evidence against you.
“I’m innocent, so if I just tell the truth, I won’t have anything to fear”
Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
Let’s just say that there’s a reason they say that “anything you say or do can be used as evidence!”
Police interviews aren’t always a hunt for the truth; rather, they’re a hunt for evidence to support a criminal case.
If you’re under suspicion or it’s believed that you know something, police will be rigorous and thorough in uncovering it.
Sometimes, that might involve leading questions.
Common police interview questions
Most of the more common questions are pretty straightforward, focused on establishing your connection to the alleged crime.
In other cases where police have already gathered evidence, you may be presented with items, photos or video recordings and asked to identify certain objects, locations or people in order to verify them.
Other than that however, the questions you’ll be asked will depend on the crime being investigated, as well as your connection to it (whether you’re the suspect, the victim or a witness).
Silence does not equal an admission of guilt
A lot of people assume that this is a bad look – in Australia however, the prosecution cannot use a lack of answer as evidence of guilt. In fact, the prosecution isn’t even allowed to mention the fact when presenting evidence before the court.
It’s important to remember however that attending an interview and making a statement are two completely separate things – while you’re compelled to attend a police interview, that doesn’t mean that you need to say anything other than what you’re legally-required to share.
In terms of legally-mandated questions, there are only a couple of questions that police can compel you to answer:
- Your full name and date of birth
- Your address
- In cases where your car was involved in a crime, naming the driver
Under Australian law, you’re allowed to exercise your right to silence against all other questions asked of you – this is what we call a “no comment” interview.
If you answer some questions and not others however, this could raise issues.
No comment interviews are usually not admitted as evidence – the moment you answer a question however, the interview in its entirety becomes admissible.
In those cases, your willingness to answer some questions and not others may raise eyebrows among jury members or magistrates and judges. That’s why the safest bet is to go all-or-nothing – either answer “no comment” to all questions, or answer all questions.
If you do choose to answer fully (or read a prepared statement), we advise only doing so after consulting with a criminal lawyer.
Our presence helps stop you from inadvertently backing yourself into a corner, and allows you to choose the most suitable interview approach based on your circumstances.
Do I have to go to a police station for questioning?
In the case of a formal interview, you will be contacted to arrange a time to turn up at a police station to answer questions. These formal interviews are conducted in a special room, and are electronically recorded
While the words “police interview” bring up images of formal interviews conducted in a windowless room with a one-way mirror and under cameras, they aren’t the only type of police interview.
The words “police interview” are a broad term used to describe any instance where police question you about a crime.
That includes what we call “informal questioning”, which is conducted on-the-spot and where an officer might just ask questions and jot down your answers on a form (before asking you to sign).
How we help you prepare: the first thing you need to do is contact a solicitor
Before any interview commences, police are required to read you out your rights – while you might know these as your Miranda Rights thanks to American TV, in Australia, we refer to this as a caution.
And one of the first things mentioned during the caution is your right to get in touch with a family member to make arrangements or a solicitor for advice leading up to the commencement of a formal interview.
During this phone call, your solicitor will give you comprehensive pre-interview advice, including a lot of the information listed in this article, as well as informing you of your rights and what strategy to adopt going into the interview.
The police interview is a pivotal time in building a criminal case, and so it’s vital that pre-interview advice is sought!
While not many exercise it, you also have the option to request that a criminal solicitor sit in on your interview.
The first thing you need to do when preparing for an upcoming police interview is to ensure that you have a criminal lawyer on your side.
All police interviews are required by law to follow certain procedures.
Our presence ensures that your legal rights are upheld, and that the interview is carried out legally and in accordance with proper procedure.
Our criminal lawyers in Dandenong will:
- Ensure that the interview stays on-topic
- Help you deal with interview tactics
- Inform you of your legal rights throughout
- Intercede when things start to deviate from procedure
While there’s no law saying that you need a lawyer present for your interview, it’s a much safer bet to turn up with one than without.
Specialising in criminal law in Dandenong, we’ll guide you through your upcoming police interview
Take our word for it, police interviews aren’t anywhere near as dramatic as TV and films make them out to be. However, that doesn’t make them any less intimidating or challenging – just in a different way.
Whether you’re being interviewed because you’re under suspicion or because you might be able to provide information related to the case, police interviews can be stressful.
That’s why it’s so important that you have professional legal counsel to support you throughout the entire process.
While it isn’t mandatory, it’s strongly recommended.
Our criminal lawyers help you prepare for police interviews. We can help you plan out a strategy, ensure that your interview is carried out properly and see that justice is done.
As part of that, we’re proud members of Victoria’s Legal Aid system, allowing everyone to access legal advice regardless of financial situation. If you need legal aid in Dandenong, call us now.