If you are suspected of a crime or of having information about a crime, you may be asked by police to attend a voluntary interview at a police station.
If you haven’t been arrested, you don’t have to attend the interview and you have the right to refuse. If you decide that you will attend the interview, it is a good idea to seek legal advice, particularly if you believe the things you say might cause police to suspect that you have committed a crime.
What happens if I refuse?
If you refuse to attend the police station for a voluntary interview and the police have reasonable grounds to suspect that you have committed a crime, they may arrest you and charge you.
If you have been arrested, you are required to comply and attend the police station, but you don’t have to answer police questions.
Regardless of whether you are attending an interview voluntarily or not, it is always a good idea to seek legal advice before giving any information beyond your basic details.
If you haven’t been accused or suspected of a crime but police want to obtain information about a crime that has been committed, you may be subpoenaed if you refuse to give evidence voluntarily.
A subpoena is a court-issued document requiring you to produce specified documentary evidence or give evidence in person in court.
If you have been issued with a subpoena you are required to comply, and can face charges if you don’t.
Do I need a lawyer present if I attend?
If you are planning to attend a voluntary interview at a police station, it is important that you seek legal advice from an experienced defence lawyer.
It is easy to feel pressured in a police interview situation, and say something that may be inaccurate and could be taken as evidence against you in the future.
A lawyer can advise you of your rights and advocate on your behalf.
They can also advise you of what you should and shouldn’t say, and what information you are required to give police.
If police are acting in a manner that is not appropriate or requesting information that is not relevant to the matter at hand, your lawyer can advise you and help you make a complaint if necessary.
It is illegal for police to interview anyone under 18 without another person present. This can be a lawyer, parent, friend or other support person.
If you are under 18 and police try to question you without a support person present, make sure you don’t give them any information and tell your lawyer as soon as possible.
If police have questioned you inappropriately and they use the information gathered to charge you with a crime, you may be able to have the charges against you withdrawn.
What about questioning on the street?
If you are out and about and police ask you questions you are not required to answer them. You will need to give them your basic information, but it is a good idea not to say anything else, even if you feel under pressure to give information.
Any time police want to question you about a legal matter it is a good idea to seek legal advice and have a lawyer present if at all possible.
This can reduce the chance of you accidentally saying something that could be taken against you and lead to a criminal charge and even a conviction.