One of the questions attorneys hear most from clients and potential clients is “Should I speak to law enforcement?” All too often, people suspected of crimes speak to the police and end up saying something that eventually comes back to hurt them. This is especially true following an incident that involved violence or when someone is suspected of violence. It can be tempting to speak to police and attempt to clear your name – or at least clarify the details of an event – but in reality, it’s one of the worst things you can do.
If police are conducting a criminal investigation, they have the right to ask you questions even if you are not under arrest. Luckily, due to your rights under the US Constitution, you do not need to answer these questions. You can give them basic information, such as your name and date of birth, but if you are asked additional questions and you have not yet spoken to an attorney, it’s better to remain silent.
Though it might seem as if a situation involving assault and battery is cut and dry, the truth is law enforcement is almost always trying to build a case against you. Their job is to identify a guilty party and close the crime, and unfortunately, this is sometimes done at your peril. You should never speak to law enforcement or answer any of their questions other than basic questions until you are working with a lawyer and he or she has advised you as to how to answer.
Understanding Your Fifth Amendment Rights
Under the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, every citizen is given the right to remain silent. Most people are familiar with the term “pleading the fifth.” This is what the term refers to – the Fifth Amendment.
Specifically, the amendment ensures that nobody will be “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”
There are limits to the Fifth Amendment. For example, you must follow the orders and/or commands of law enforcement, as long as your safety is not threatened. If you are ordered to raise your hands to show you are not carrying or reaching for a weapon, you must do so. If you are asked to pull your vehicle over and exit your vehicle, you should as soon as you can do so safely. However, if you are asked what you were doing on a given date last month, you are not required to share that information.
What Should I Do If I’m Accused of Assault or Battery?
If the police arrive in the midst of a fight, there isn’t much you can do. There’s a good chance you’ll be arrested, as will the other person or persons involved in the incident. Law enforcement’s main goal in this situation is to stop the violence before further injury occurs and move away from the situation in which it occurred to sort through the details.
There are instances in which you can be accused and/or arrested for assault or battery after the fact. And unfortunately, since the event occurred in the past, it can be tougher to plead your case. An assault accusation after-the-fact could arise from an incident that barely involved you. What should you do if you are falsely accused of assault?
It’s important to take the accusations seriously, even if you are not guilty. It can be tempting to shrug off a claim that you were involved in an assault or an assault & battery if it’s not true, but you need to be vigilant about protecting your rights. Do not take accusations of assault lightly, even if you are innocent.
There are several reasons you might be falsely accused of assault or assault & battery. For instance:
- You could be mistaken for another person who actually did commit the crime for which you are accused.
- You could have been involved in the event in question, but reacting in self-defense.
- You might have been acting to protect the safety and well-being of someone around you.
- You might be involved in a personal relationship gone wrong and your significant other is seeking revenge.
Protecting Yourself from Assault & Battery Accusations
If you’ve been accused of assault or assault & battery, first and foremost, you should contact an attorney. He or she will provide you with information about how to proceed and will ensure that no action is taken by law enforcement that is outside of the boundaries of being legal. It is especially important you not agree to speak to law enforcement about the situation unless you have an attorney with you.
Keep in mind, you’ll need to pay for the services of an attorney unless you are deemed unable to do so by the court. The cost of an attorney should not be your reason for hiring or not hiring legal help, and the attorney you choose should not be based on cost alone. However, it’s important to consider attorney’s fees and act accordingly in dealing with your current circumstances.
If possible, preserve any evidence that could help your case. Create a written record of the event in question and make notes about anything that occurs going forward. If there is physical evidence related to the accusations, save those as well. And if there is any physical evidence you believe could help prove your innocence, save it and share it with your attorney.
The more you know about assault & battery the better. It’s also important to educate yourself as much as possible about the North Carolina legal system. Start by understanding your rights, so you’re able to identify whether or not they are being violated. Then ask your legal counsel to explain anything else you might need to know based on your situation.
If you have been falsely accused of committing assault or assault & battery, it’s imperative you contact an experienced attorney. Experienced attorneys know their way around the legal system and can help you build your strongest defense. They’ll also ensure your rights are not violated during the investigation or the criminal proceedings.
If you would like to know more about dealing with false accusations of violence, or you need to schedule a consultation to discuss your case, contact Remington & Dixon at 704.247.7110.
Brandon double-majored in Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He earned his Juris Doctor from Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida. Throughout his career, Brandon has received numerous awards and recognition from his peers and agencies that rate attorneys. A few of these awards are from The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyer in 2014, The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 Under 40 in 2014, Nation’s Top One Percent: National Association of Distinguished Counsel in 2015, Super Lawyers: Rising Stars in 2018 and 2019, and North Carolina Business Magazine: Legal Elite in 2019, among others.