My uncle was invited by police officers to the police station. When he refused, they threatened him with law suits because of his refusal. May I ask if a person may legally refuse the invitation of police officers tto the police station?
A person may refuse the invitation from police officers to go to the police station. There is no law or rule that obliges a person to assent to such invitation saving instances where the police officers are armed with a warrant of arrest. In such a case, however, although the police officers may use the word “invitation,” they are not really inviting a person but rather enforcing the order of a judge to take a person in custody.
Note though that the invitation itself is not illegal. It can be safely assumed that the main purpose of police officers in inviting a person to the police station is to ask questions concerning an alleged crime. Viewed in this light, the invitation is made in connection with the mandate and duty of police authorities to investigate a crime. Hence, a person may freely go with the police officers and cooperate with them should he choose to do so.
Still, caution must be observed when acceding to police invitation. No less than our Supreme Court recognized that there are cases where the invitation is used as a guise to effect a warrantless arrest. This situation arises when the person invited is suspected and investigated as perpetrator of the crime and is asked incriminating questions. In one case where a person went to the police station upon invitation, and later police officers investigated him for allegedly committing a crime, our Supreme Court declared that such invitation is equivalent to arrest. It is covered by the proscription on a warrantless arrest because it is intended for no other reason than to conduct an investigation (People vs. Olivares, G.R. No. 77865, December 4, 1998).
Thus, it is highly advisable to ask assistance from a lawyer when acceding to police invitation in order to ensure that your legal rights are respected. The same is also intended to protect the person from the inherently coercive psychological, if not physical, atmosphere of a police investigation following the arrest of a person (People vs. Rodriguez, G.R. 129211, October 2, 2000).
We hope we were able to shed light on the matter. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based solely on the facts you narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary should circumstances change.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org