When Do I Have a Right to an Attorney in a Virginia Criminal Investigation?

Being under criminal investigation is one of the scariest ordeals you may ever have to go through, and, no matter how many detective shows you’ve watched on TV, facing the questions of police officers, detectives, agents, and other members of law enforcement can leave you confused, shaken, and not sure where to turn. One of the biggest mistakes that people under criminal investigation make is believing that talking to law enforcement without a lawyer present will work out well for them and will “look better” than asking for an attorney. Many people also believe that they do not have a right to an attorney unless the police tell them that that do, and even then many people still continue talking to the police, doing great damage to themselves in the process. Below, we discuss when you have a right to an attorney and why you should exercise that right.

You Have a Right to An Attorney Whenever You Speak to Law Enforcement

Two of the most important criminal law protections we have in this country are the Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment. Under the Fifth Amendment, we have the right not to be forced into incriminate ourselves, and under the Sixth Amendment we have the right to be represented by an attorney in all criminal prosecutions.


The Supreme Court has ruled that, among other things, these protections mean that a person has a right to be represented by an attorney anytime they are speaking to law enforcement. In other words, you do not have to answer any questions posed to you by law enforcement if you tell them that you would like to have an attorney present. Once you clearly make a request for an attorney, the police must stop all questioning.


Note that this is a slightly different rule than the famous Miranda rule which says that police officers must read your rights during a custodial interrogation as a prerequisite to any of your statements being admissible against you. Regardless of whether you are in custody or even if the police are looking at you just a witness, you can, and should, always request an attorney when speaking to law enforcement and you certainly shouldn’t wait for them to read your rights before requesting an attorney.

Why Having an Attorney Present is Important

Some might suggest that asking for an attorney makes you look guilty, and the police officers themselves may ask why you need an attorney if you are innocent, but you have to remember that their motivation is to make arrests and obtain confessions, not to help protect your constitutional rights against self-incrimination. Without an experienced lawyer present, you will have no one who can assert your state and federal rights, make sure that your interests are protected, and speak to the police on your behalf. No judge, prosecutor, or jury can use the fact that you exercised your right to an attorney against you.


Furthermore, many people under investigation who don’t retain an attorney end up talking to friends and family members about the underlying facts, which puts them at risk because those people can be called to testify under oath regarding what was said. But, by talking to an attorney about your issues, you are in a confidential relationship with a person who can give you the proper advice and who cannot be called to testify against you.

Experienced Virginia Criminal Defense Attorneys In Your Corner

The criminal defense attorneys at Select Law Partners in Fredericksburg, Virginia,  understand what you are going through and the stress and anxiety you are facing, and we will work with you to do whatever it takes to protect your reputation and your future. Contact us today to schedule a consultation regarding your situation.

The following two tabs change content below.

Select Law Partners, PLLC

Legal issues can turn your life upside down. Our experienced attorneys serve clients in a variety of divorce and family law matters as well as criminal defense. To better help you plan for the future, we have significant experience with estate planning and asset protection. At Select Law, we provide our clients with customized solutions to their most challenging problems.

Latest posts by Select Law Partners, PLLC (see all)