What should I do if I am arrested?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Dec 1, 2016

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There are several things you should do if you are arrested, and also, there are things you should not do. First, do not speak to a law enforcement officer without having spoken to your attorney, and also, ask for an attorney immediately. Never waive your right to remain silent.

After an Arrest

After you have been arrested, concentrate on protecting your rights. You have the right not to make statements that incriminate yourself. Only your attorney can give you trustworthy advice about whether your statements could incriminate you. A prosecutor does not have an obligation to tell you how your statements could be interpreted. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you want the assistance of an attorney following your arrest, clearly state that you want to talk to one.

Explain that you will not provide any information to law enforcement officers until you have spoken to your attorney. When you are allowed to make a phone call, call an attorney or someone who will send an attorney to speak to you. You may believe that someone is in danger and you need to tell law enforcement officers to save the person’s life. Provide the officers with only relevant information.

Search Incident to Arrest

Typically, after a lawful arrest, law enforcement officers have the right to conduct a limited police search of your person and property. They can conduct this search without a warrant. Such a search is called a search incident to arrest. The purpose of the police search is to ensure the officers’ safety. It is also to determine whether you have any contraband material on your person or property. Avoid physically resisting a reasonable search of your person or property. If you believe the police search is unreasonable or illegal, verbally object to the search.

Pay careful attention to how the search is being conducted. Look at what officers recover. Look at the current state of the item. If the search turns up an item that could incriminate you, do not attempt to explain its presence. Being arrested puts you at risk of being charged with a crime that you did not commit. The most important thing you can do is avoid making statements or providing evidence that suggests you committed an offense. Focus on remaining calm, silent, and physically compliant during the police search and the arrest, but be prepared to speak to your attorney when the time comes.

Jail and Booking

Once you get to the jail and enter the book-in process, try to make arrangements for bond and for an attorney. Many jails will post lists of approved bondsmen. You will also be allowed to make phone calls to arrange for representation. If possible, make bond and then start looking for an attorney immediately. Many people bond out, don’t hear anything about their case for a while, and then don’t start looking for an attorney until several months later – usually after they’ve received a court summons. But you should try to have an attorney by your first court date, as nothing aggravates a judge more than delays. Further, the sooner you have representation, the sooner s/he can take the necessary steps to preserve evidence and formulate your defense.

Thousands of people are arrested every day with minimal issues. If you remain calm, you can prevent multiple additional charges from being successfully filed against you. If you are concerned that officers violated your rights during your arrest, tell your attorney so that your attorney is fully aware of the circumstances of the arrest. Sometimes, evidence may be excluded or whole cases may even be dismissed based on violations of the constitutional rights of the accused before, during, or subsequent to an arrest.

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