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S. Huband, Esq.
S. Huband, Esq., Attorney
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 1095
Experience:  Experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
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If a police officer questioned me last night about a crime

Customer Question

If a police officer questioned me last night about a crime committed by someone else, am I obligated to continue to answer their questions. The threatened me that I would be charged with obstruction of justice if I don't help them out further.
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Thank you for the opportunity to assist you.

Q) If a police officer questioned me last night about a crime committed by someone else, am I obligated to continue to answer their questions? They threatened me that I would be charged with obstruction of justice if I don't help them out further.

No. You are never under any obligation to talk to the police. You can always politely say, "Officer I do not have anything else to say." End of story. Then walk away.

Most people don't feel they can stand up to the police like this and just say "no." Believe me, if the police can lawfully detain or arrest you, they will. Otherwise, don't help them to possibly think up charges against you. Steer clear of them.

The police also lied to you, which is not uncommon, about charging you with obstruction of justice. Obstruction is defined in the Maryland Code:

§ 9-306. Obstruction of justice.
"(a) Prohibited.- A person may not, by threat, force, or corrupt means, obstruct, impede, or try to obstruct or impede the administration of justice in a court of the State."

(b) Penalty.- A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both.


Thus, obstruction is ONLY punishable if you did something by threat, force, or "corrupt means." The last phrase covers things like tampering with evidence, or perhaps lying about the crime of another. You have to commit an affirmative act to obstruct justice. Your refusal to answer the officer's questions, i.e. remaining silent, is NOT considered an affirmative act.

It's usually a safe bet just to stay silent. The absence of information rarely gets someone in trouble.

I hope my response has been helpful. If you have follow-up questions or concerns on this topic, please ask. Otherwise, please rate my answer positively so that I can receive credit for my work. Doing so will NOT cost you any additional fee.

Take care,
Shuband
Customer: replied 9 months ago.


I told the police that I didn't know the girl in my car who committed the crime but in all actuality I do know her. If they later find that I knew this person would that me grounds to say that I obstructed justice? I am not trying to get her in trouble so I don't wish to speak to the police again.

Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Thanks for the update. I'm pleased to have been of help to you so far.

Q) If they later find that I knew this person would that be grounds to say that I obstructed justice?

Yes, it's possible, but I doubt it based on what you've said. Choosing to say nothing to the police is a constitutionally protected right. Making untruthful statements to the police is not.

Lying to the police by claiming to NOT know this girl may border on obstruction, but I doubt it. It would be different if you made up a story that was completely untrue in an attempt to mislead the police.

For example, imagine that the police come to your house looking for me. You answer the door and tell the officer you haven't seen me for days. In fact, I'm hiding under the bed, you know I'm hiding under the bed, and you're covering for me. THAT'S obstruction.

Your statement about not knowing her is more akin to a "little white lie." But is it possible to get charged? Sure. Convicted? Probably not.

Q) I am not trying to get her in trouble so I don't wish to speak to the police again.

Say nothing more to the police, no matter what they do or say. Even if they arrest you, do NOT make the mistake of thinking you can explain your way out of it or cooperate in exchange for them not prosecuting you. It generally does not work that way.

I would ONLY consider cooperation after retaining an attorney, discussing the facts, making an educated estimation of your chances at trial, and getting specific legal advice about the situation. If you do not know an attorney in your area, try the Maryland State Bar attorney referral service. They can point you in the right direction.

In the future, in this type situation, NEVER talk to the police. Say nothing. Tell all your friends.

Thanks again for the opportunity to assist you. Please let me know if I can help further. If I've answered your questions, please rate my answer positively.

Best wishes,
Shuband
Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Hello again,

It appears you last reviewed my most recent response to your question(s) on 11/2/2013 at 11:46 AM. Do you have any additional questions or concerns? If so, please ask.

Otherwise, please let me know what else, if anything, I can do to earn a positive rating. Without a positive rating, I do not receive credit for my work.

Thank you for using our service. I hope to be able to help you again in the future.

Take care,
Shuband

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