Being arrested is a harrowing experience. At a time like this, it's difficult to stay calm and rational — and unfortunately, many people who are arrested for a crime make mistakes that can contribute to a conviction.
If you are arrested for any reason, it's important to know what your rights are and what you should do so you can avoid making the situation worse.
The right to remain silent: It's not just for movies
Even though it may seem like a cliché line of movie dialogue, you really do have the right to remain silent if you are arrested. If there are criminal charges involved, it's in your best interests to exercise that right.
You are legally permitted to refuse to speak to anyone regardless of what law enforcement personnel might say following an arrest. You have the right to remain silent — make sure you use it so you don't incriminate yourself.
Asking for a lawyer
If you are arrested, you have the right to speak to an attorney, even if you think you can't afford one. By law, you must be allowed to consult a lawyer. If you're faced with refusal by police or others, don't let yourself be goaded into talking about your case. Continue to ask for a lawyer until you're granted a meeting with either the attorney you choose, or a court-appointed lawyer.
Surveillance and attorney-client privilege
While it's true that any communication you have with your lawyer is confidential, it's also important to realize that once you've been arrested, you are almost constantly monitored and recorded. You must take steps to protect the secrecy of your discussions with an attorney.
Be sure to verify that any conversation you hold with your lawyer is not being recorded, and check to make sure no one is standing within earshot in the hopes of overhearing. In addition, don't discuss the communication between you and your attorney with anyone else.
Being released after an arrest
Usually, you will be evaluated by a district court commissioner within hours of your arrest. This person will decide one of three things, depending on your background and the current charges against you:
- Release you on promise to appear in court when you're required
- Set a bond (an amount that must be paid by you or someone else on your behalf) as the condition of your release
- Have you held without bond
There may also be other conditions involved in your pretrial release. It's essential to follow these conditions exactly, at the risk of incurring jail time regardless of the outcome of your court trial.
Be sure to discuss your options and obligations for pretrial release with your attorney.