Being investigated for a crime can be extremely stressful.  If you are under investigation, your movements might be monitored, and police could literally be following you and watching you.  For people who already have a bad history with police or are prone to paranoia, this can be even more stressful – especially if you know you didn’t do anything wrong.  Many people wonder if there is a sure-fire way to check if you are under investigation.  The Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych explain some of the ways you might be able to find out if you are under investigation for a crime and what you might be able to do to protect yourself.

Is There a Way to Find Out if I’m Under Investigation for a Crime in NJ?

Usually, there is no one you can call to find out if you are under investigation.  Similarly, there are not usually any databases you can search to see if your name comes up on a list of people under investigation.  Unfortunately, this means that the only way you will usually find out that you are under investigation is if you get a call from a police officer or police show up at your house or your place of work to question you.

Many times, investigations are just like they are in cop shows: police will call witnesses or suspects or show up at their house or workplace to ask them questions about the crime.  Sometimes they’ll call and schedule a time for you to come down to the station for questioning, which gives you time to contact one of our South Jersey criminal defense attorneys and have the assistance of counsel during questioning.  If police already have enough evidence to show probable cause that you committed a crime, they may even get an arrest warrant and bring you to the station in handcuffs.

If a police officer does contact you about a crime, it may be difficult to immediately tell why they want to talk to you.  Especially if you didn’t do anything wrong and don’t know anything about the crime they’re questioning you about, you might be extremely confused.  Sometimes police talk to you because they think you might be a witness or have information – and other times, they talk to you because they think you did it.  Typically, you can ask a police officer why they are asking questions and whether you are a suspect, and the officer might be willing to explain, but they usually have no obligation to tell you if you are a suspect.

What Can I Do if I’m Under Investigation in New Jersey?

As mentioned, police often approach potential witnesses or suspects in one of two ways: they will either approach you (by phone or in person) and ask you if you are willing to provide information voluntarily, or they will arrest you.  If police approach you and ask you to voluntarily come with them or answer questions, you do not have to.  You can tell them that you won’t answer any questions without a criminal defense lawyer present and politely decline to answer.  If you were arrested, you can definitely ask for a lawyer.

You could alternatively say that you’d like to use your right to remain silent, but police might be able to change the subject and ask about other crimes or legal issues.  For instance, if you are called in about a robbery, but they realize your car matches the description of a car used in a hit and run, they could start asking you about the hit and run even if you said you want to remain silent about the robbery investigation.  If you say you won’t answer questions without an attorney, the police will need to stop asking questions entirely and wait until your attorney arrives.

If you are the subject of a criminal investigation, the officers might try to search your property or your person as well.  Police are typically allowed to do a pat-down for officer safety, but they are not allowed to do a more invasive search without probable cause.  That includes searches of your car or your house as well as searches of your person and any bags you are carrying.

If police officers do try to ask you for permission to search you or your property, you have every right to request that they get a warrant and to deny them permission to perform the search.  If they perform the search anyway, it might be because they think there is some exception to the law that allows them to perform the search.  Otherwise, police will have to get a warrant.

If any evidence was seized or any search or arrest was performed without probable cause or a proper warrant, our attorneys can fight against the illegal search and seizure.  This can often lead to suppression of evidence, which means that the court will block the prosecution from using any evidence they took illegally, potentially making it harder for them to prove you did anything wrong.

Can I Leave the State if I’m Under Investigation for a Crime in New Jersey?

Sometimes police will specifically ask you to keep in touch with them or request that you do not leave the state.  During an investigation, there is typically nothing to prevent you from leaving the state or going about your normal daily business.  However, fleeing the state or suddenly changing your patterns might be a sign of guilt – at least in the eyes of a police officer.  If you were already arrested and released on bail or you are on probation for another offense, you might not be allowed to travel to another state or otherwise refuse to cooperate with police.  Talk to a criminal defense lawyer in Cape May for advice on what to do in these complex situations.

Call Our Atlantic City Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Free Consultation

If you are under investigation for a crime or suspect that you might be, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today.  Our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers help defendants in all kinds of criminal cases, fighting to keep your rights protected during the investigation and arrest stages of the case and working to get evidence suppressed and charges dropped when the case moves to court.  For a free legal consultation on your case, call our lawyers today at (609) 616-4956.