Getting invited for a voluntary police interview can seem scary, especially when you don’t know what to expect and your legal provisions and rights to ensure your interests are protected during the interview.
In this article, the topic is treated in-depth, providing details on how to approach an invitation for a voluntary interview by the police and what the likely outcomes could be so you’re better prepared.
A voluntary interview is when a person accepts an invitation to be subjected to questioning regarding a particular subject or case out of their own free will and without compulsion. One can decide to honor such an invitation or decline.
What is voluntary police interview?
It is a formal interview of a person of interest or suspect in an ongoing police investigation. It is termed voluntary because the person is not under arrest and therefore is not obligated to honor the invitation for interview or answer the questions asked during the interview.
Voluntary police interviews are recorded, and while it may seem like a harmless chat, the evidence gathered is admissible and can therefore be used against the suspect in a court of law should the police have cause to prosecute.
Rights during a voluntary police interview
A person invited for a voluntary police interview has rights enshrined in the law that can be invoked at anytime before and during the interview. These rights include:
The right to decline
Since it is not an arrest, a person has the right to decline an invitation. However, this could cause the police to arrest you and interview you under arrest. (Standard interview). It is advisable not to decline such an invitation. If the timing is inconvenient, the interview can be rescheduled to a reasonably convenient date or time.
Right to know your rights.
Before the interview proceeds, the officer is obliged to read to you your rights which you will be at liberty to exercise at any time during the interview.
Right to know the nature of the offense.
The police are obliged to inform you of the nature and form of the offense you’re suspected of having committed and the reason for interviewing you.
The right to remain silent
This right is fundamental as it affords the chance not to divulge self-incriminating information. However, staying silent may go against you should the case be pursued further, as one is not allowed to rely on a withheld answer during the interview as a defense in court.
The right to a lawyer
If you so wish, you can have a solicitor go with you for the voluntary police interview or request to have your solicitor brought in at any point during the interview. The police have to oblige to your request and stop questioning until your solicitor is present.
Right to an interpreter
If required, the police must provide you with an interpreter and have documents you must read translated at no cost to you.
Right to leave
Unless you are informed that you’re under arrest, you have the right to leave the interview anytime you wish.
Voluntary interview under caution
It involves a no-obligation interview with the caution that what you say may be used against you in court. Voluntary interview under caution and voluntary police interview are used interchangeably, and both involve the same process and practice.
What happens after a voluntary police interview?
What happens after a voluntary police interview depends on whether the police decide to pursue the case against you or remove you as a person of interest/suspect depending on the evidence they have and or gathered during the interview. A voluntary interview can therefore result in arrest or no further action.
Voluntary police interview ending in arrest
You could be arrested during or any time after the interview if the police have reason to do so. The officer in charge is required to inform you that you are under arrest and read your rights to you.
If arrested, the police can hold you in custody for a maximum of twenty-four hours before charging you with a crime or releasing you.
Voluntary interview no further action
A voluntary interview can end in no further action when the police find no cause to pursue you as a person of interest or suspect in the case after the interview.
Police voluntary interview questions
The police may choose to ask any number of questions during the interview primarily to establish evidence of guilt or innocence. It is especially so because some invitations for voluntary interviews arise from complaints that the police have no evidence to cause outright arrest. Expect that the questioning will try to establish the following:
- Knowledge – Since you’re a person of interest, the obvious line of questioning will be getting to know your knowledge of what happened.
- Involvement – Most invitations arise from complaints police received. You should expect to answer questions that try to establish your involvement or otherwise in the commission of the said crime/complaint.
- Defense – In case you admit your involvement, or otherwise, one can expect a further line of questioning in pursuit of alibi or evidence to support a claim of innocence or cause, if any, for your involvement in the commission of the crime/complaint if you admitted to same.
The line of questioning is not limited to those mentioned above. The police may ask any legitimate questions to help them reach a logical conclusion. It is important to remember that one is not compelled to answer any question during a voluntary police interview. You can invoke the rights aforementioned at any time but be fully aware of the possible consequences.
What is a no comment interview?
It simply means indicating your refusal to provide an answer to a question posed by an interviewer. Usually, the person being interviewed doesn’t want to give an answer that will be self-incriminating, especially when being interviewed by the police.
Why do lawyers tell you to say no comment?
Your lawyer will tell you to say no comment during an interview by law enforcement so that you don’t provide a self-incriminating answer or injure your defense in court.
Remember, whatever you say during a voluntary police interview is recorded and is admissible evidence that can be used against you by a prosecutor in court.
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