How to act when confronted with possible arrest
Article authored by: Barrie Denmark, Esq.
Have you ever watched Law and Order and asked yourself if that’s really how the system works? Well, to some extent, the answer is “yes.” Although it doesn’t work nearly as quickly and succinctly as the show’s district attorney, Jack McCoy, would have you think. What takes an hour on television can take a year or more in real life, which means that if you are arrested for committing a crime, you could be stuck in jail, or in limbo, for quite a while until your case is heard and you are exonerated. It is imperative that you hire a proven and practiced attorney to help you navigate the system.
Even before your lawyer arrives, here are a few things you can do to help yourself if you are arrested:
1) It pretty much goes without saying that if you are stopped for a DUI, or arrested for some other reason, comply, comply, comply! Don’t try to talk your way out of it, don’t ask what you did wrong (the officer will let you know soon enough), don’t resist and don’t fight with the officer. You would be amazed at the charges you can face just for talking back. Remember when you were a kid and your parents told you the only acceptable response was “No sir” or “No ma’am?” That applies now too. Double.
2) People who are generally law abiding don’t really know what to do if they are stopped or arrested. The first thing is to tell the officer that you want an attorney, then STOP TALKING. Don’t ask if you need one, don’t intimate that you want one, flat out say it. Then, stop talking.
3) One of the most common things people who are in custody do wrong is that they try to explain the situation and their innocence. Just because you have stated that you want an attorney does not mean that anything you say from that point forward cannot be used against you. A good interrogator will try to get you to explain yourself. They might even tell you that if you simply cooperate and tell them what happened, the whole thing can be cleared up and you can go home. That is, most often, incorrect.
4) Fairness really doesn’t apply when you’ve been arrested or when you’ve been taken in for questioning. You can’t lie to the police, but the police can lie to you. That’s right, the law says the police can lie to you. Let’s go back to our Law and Order example. You know how Detective Lenny Briscoe might tell a “perp” that she can go home if she owns up to the truth? Or how he may tell one suspect that his partner is squealing on him? Even when it isn’t true, that’s all perfectly legitimate. And what you say in response to those lies is fair game in the state’s case against you.
5) Be polite. You don’t have to be belligerent. You ended up in this situation because something happened, or the police officer thinks it did, and he is just doing his job. When you are in his house, Mr. Nice Policeman, the officer you met in second grade, is no longer your friend. Don’t forget for a minute that you are on opposite sides.
6) We can’t reiterate strongly enough, don’t talk to anyone. That includes the guy who is sharing the same cell you occupy. Yes, police really do send in an undercover cop to see if you’ll talk. And that conversation can be used against you.
Most of us never think we’re going to be arrested. But sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. If you, or a family member, find yourself on the wrong side of the law, the first thing to do (after refusing to talk) is to hire an experienced attorney. Your freedom and your reputation are at stake; you really can’t afford not to.