A police interview (also known as a record of interview) is a necessary component of a police investigation into an alleged offence or offences. These are generally for indictable offences such as assault or theft.
Often the Police will invite people to the station “for a chat” about what happened. It is important to ascertain whether that is with a view to making a statement in relation to the matter as a witness, or to be interviewed as a suspect. Your lawyer can speak with the Police on your behalf first to find this out and then give you proper legal advice.
What is the purpose of a police interview?
The purpose of a record of interview is to put the allegations to the accused, and provide them an opportunity to comment or answer relevant questions should they wish. An accused person may wish to admit their involvement in an offence, deny any wrongdoing or exercise their right to silence by answering ‘no comment’.
It is essential to understand that anything you say during a police interview can be used as evidence against you in court. As such, you should always receive expert legal advice prior to answering questions. Cases can be won or lost on the record of interview.
What you need to know during your police interview
Your legal rights
At the start of the interview, the police are legally required to ensure that your rights have
been properly explained to you. If you have been arrested, note that:
- You have a right to know why you have been arrested and what offence/crime they suspect you have committed.
- You have the right to contact a lawyer. The police will either make these arrangements for you beforehand or during the interview. Making sure you have reliable lawyers like Anthony Isaacs to represent you gives you the best fighting chance.
- You have a right to contact a friend or relative and let them know where you are.
- If needed, you can call in an interpreter.
- You have the right to medical treatment if required.
- You have a right to privacy from the media.
- If you are under 18 then a support person (parent, guardian or independent adult) must attend.
- Most importantly, you have a right to decline to answer the police questions.
The advice may be to exercise your right to silence, or answer “no comment”. This means, besides answering the basic questions of your name and address, you do not have to answer any further questions from the police. If you choose to remain silent, you can simply respond “on legal advice, I decline to answer” or “no comment”. Answering “no comment” cannot be used against you to infer guilt.
“Off The Record” conversations
The best rule of thumb is to simply assume that anything you say may be used against you in proceedings. Whilst there may be legal argument about whether particular things said by an accused outside a record of interview may be relied on in Court by the Police, it is always safer to not say anything. For example, a conversation with officers in the Police vehicle or foyer of the station may appear innocuous at the time, but be raised later during the interview or notes of the Police members.
What happens during the police interview
The record of interview will usually take place in a dedicated interview room at a Police station. Prior to being interviewed, the Police will state that you are under arrest, and ask you to remove your personal belongings. We usually advise clients it is easier to leave items such as phones or wallets at home for this reason.
Two officers will conduct the interview, which is recorded both by video and audio. The interview process may be quick (15 minute) or very long (several hours) depending on the complexity of the questions and depth of answers, if any. Depending on the circumstances of the alleged offence and accused, the Police may also seek to take a DNA sample and fingerprints after the interview.
What happens after a police interview
Once the interview is concluded, police may do either of the following:
- Release you without charge.
- Release you pending further investigation and potentially summons you to Court in the future.
- Release you with a notice to appear in court within 14 days.
- Charge you, but release you on bail to appear in Court.
- Charge you and keep you under police custody (remanded into custody).
The Police Informant (member running the investigation) will usually have already formed a view as to which option above they will proceed with before the interview commences. This is another reason you should have a lawyers speak with the Police before anything else.
Being charged and arrested can be an intimidating experience. It is important to remember that you have rights, even when under arrest. You have the right to know why you are being arrested and the right to legal representation. It is advisable to remain calm and not resist arrest or become abusive, as this could lead to additional charges.
Can the police charge you without interviewing you
It is possible to be charged without an interview, particularly if the offence is a minor one (summary offence) or they accused may be unfit for an interview (due to mental illness or health concerns).
What Laws Should You Be Aware Of?
In Victoria, the Crimes Act is a significant piece of legislation that outlines various criminal offences and their penalties. It also contains laws regarding the interview procedure and rights of the accused.
The Bail Act is relevant if you have been refused bail by Police and are seeking to be released from custody pending your court hearing.
The Evidence Act governs how evidence is handled and presented in court, which may include things said to witnesses or other relevant admissions or denials.
Why is Legal Representation Important in a Police Interview?
Navigating a police interview can be a daunting experience. However, with the right knowledge and legal representation, you can protect your rights and interests. Anthony Isaacs Criminal Defence Lawyers in Melbourne have the experience and knowledge necessary to guide you through this process. Their commitment to client support ensures that you are not alone in this journey.
Experience and Knowledge
When facing a police interview, engaging a lawyer with extensive experience and knowledge is invaluable. Each case presents its unique set of circumstances, but many share basic elements with other cases. A lawyer who has dealt with similar matters will know how to navigate the path to a successful outcome. Additionally, it is essential to have a lawyer who stays up-to-date with legal developments, such as amendments to legislation and case law.
Years in the industry build rapport with other parties in the system, such as the Court, Prosecutors, and experts who defence solicitors engage to support their cases. Hiring a lawyer with these networks and connections maximises your chances of obtaining the best result.
The justice system can be overwhelming, especially for those unfamiliar with it. A good lawyer will minimise the stresses involved by explaining the court process in detail, discussing all available options, providing reasoning behind their advice, and being available to clients through various communication channels.
Contact Anthony Isaacs for a free assessment of your case today and take the first step towards the best outcome for yourself.