Your Rights during a Pre-Arrest Criminal Investigation

Your Rights during a Pre-Arrest Criminal Investigation

Last updated: February 2007

This article provides information regarding your rights if you become involved in a criminal investigation.

How do I find out if there is a warrant for my arrest?

A warrant must be issued and signed by a Judge. Therefore, the Clerk of the Court in the county where the warrant was issued should have a record of the warrant. Note, it may take several days for the Clerk's Office to update their records. Contact the Clerk's Office in that county to discover if a warrant has been issued for your arrest. 

However, in many cases you may be arrested even though a warrant has not been issued.

Police officers have called and asked me to come in for questioning or to make a statement.  Do I have to make a statement to the police?

No.You are not obligated make a statement or answer police questions or to participate in a police investigation. You have the right to remain silent if police try to question you about a crime. 

Do I have to take a lie detector test? 

No. You are not required to take a "lie detector" test. This applies to individuals who are under arrest as well as those who have not been arrested. Although lie detector tests cannot be used as evidence in most courts, it can and will be used by police officers and State's Attorney's in deciding whether or not to file formal charges.

A lie detector test is not always correct; it may indicate that you are lying even though you are not, or say that you are telling the truth when you are really lying. Therefore, taking a lie detector test can be very harmful even if you are telling the truth. 

Do I have to participate in a line-up?

If you are under arrest you cannot refuse to be placed in a line-up. But, you do not have to go to a police station in order to participate in a line-up if you have not been placed under arrest.

Do the police always have to tell me the truth?   

No. Law enforcement officials are legally allowed to lie to you during the course of an investigation. Common techniques involve lying about the strength of the case they have against you, or what particular evidence they have in their possession. 

Is it best that I contact a criminal defense attorney before making any statements in a criminal case?

Yes. It is best that you contact a criminal defense attorney before making any statements in a criminal case. Even if you are told that police officers only want to "question" you, or that you are only a "witness," you should still speak with an attorney first.

What effects can making a statement have?

Anything that you say to police officers, State's Attorneys, or anyone with the exception of your attorney can be used as evidence against you if you are charged with a crime. This can include formal, signed statements, as well as verbal replies to questions or comments.

What effects can not participating in a criminal investigation have?

Although you have a right to refuse to answer questions in a criminal investigation, this course of action may or may not be in your best interest. For example, in a Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) investigation, the fact that a person has not participated in the criminal part of the investigation may have a negative effect on the family law part of the investigation (i.e., the custody determination). It is always best to speak with a criminal defense attorney before deciding if you should participate in an investigation or not.    

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