January 2011: The Magic Words--Part 3 of 3: "I want to see a lawyer!"

During any law enforcement encounter, it’s important to remember that officers are trained to gather information in a variety of ways. Under the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right [...] to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” A lawyer can help you navigate the ins and outs of the legal system. It can be very easy to waive rights accidentally, and a lawyer can make sure that you preserve all your rights.

It is your right to have an attorney represent you in a criminal case. Once you invoke your right to counsel and your wish to remain silent, all formal questioning by the police must stop.

I want to see a lawyer.

Law enforcement is great at gathering information and will use every trick in the book to get you to open your mouth. Assume that everything they’re telling you is a trick. Then use what you’ve learned and say:

I want to see a lawyer.

Lawyers spend years in school and in practice learning about the law. Even if you know your basic rights, it is still quite easy to incriminate yourself without even realizing it. Ask for a lawyer,and then stop talking.

Even if you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, ask for a lawyer. Flex your rights! For more information on how to deal with law enforcement, check out10 Rules for Dealing with Police

…and remember to keep ASA in the loop—after ANY law enforcement encounter, call our legal hotline at 510/251-1856 x304 or email [email protected].

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