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What do I do when I’m arrested?

October 28, 2011

2. Law, 4. Arrest

What do I do when I’m arrested?

Repeat after me:  “I want an attorney.”  Say nothing more.  Nothing.  “I want an attorney.”

So what if they tell you that maybe you can go home if only you talk?  “Look,” the cop says, “if you’ve got nothing to hide, then you’ve got nothing to worry about.”  Smirk.  “I’ll put in a good word for you with the DA,” he says.

“I want an attorney.”  End of story.

Be polite and quiet.

Look, I like cops.  I respect cops.  They’d take a bullet to protect us – that’s worthy of respect.  Sure, there’s bad cops – there’s bad everything out there.  But cops have a job to do.  It ends with making an arrest.  Not – NOT – the arrest of the guy that did it.  Alright, fine, most cops don’t want to arrest to the wrong guy.  Most cops believe they have arrested the right guy.  I get that.

But cops are judged on closure.  The DOJ/FBI stats talk about closure.  The Uniform Crime Report sets out closure.  What’s closure?  An arrest.  If that guy is subsequently acquitted at trial or the charges are dropped by the DA, the closure stands.

Let’s bring this full circle.  The cop’s job is to arrest someone.  The DA’s job is to prosecute that person.  Lots of arrested people – even guilty people – walk for a whole bunch of reasons.  So nailing a cop’s performance because the DA chose some way other than a conviction to dispose of a case (or got his clock cleaned at trial) is not fair.

Now that a cop has someone detained – either on the street or in an interrogation room – their job is to get as much incriminating information as possible out of that person.  The next step for them is to convince the DA that there’s a strong enough case to prosecute.  That happens through physical evidence, witness statements, and suspect statements.

Physical evidence takes time to analyze and can be interpreted in multiple ways (a suspect’s fingerprints could be on a weapon from a previous time).  Witness statements can change.  Ah, but a confession lasts forever.

Don’t believe television when they tell you that if you weren’t read your Miranda rights that nothing you say can be used.  It’s true enough, but there’s also all sorts of exceptions to the rule.  Don’t count on tossing a confession or incriminating statement because of Miranda.  Just. Shut. Up.  It’s better to spend one night in jail than say something stupid and buy into months or years.

And don’t sign anything – in particular the Miranda sheet. Repeat after me: “I want an attorney.”  If the cop presses you, he’s out of bounds.  If he asks if there’s anything you want to say, answer “Can I smoke?  Is there a Dunkin’ Donuts close by?”

When your attorney arrives – I don’t care if it’s 15 minutes or 15 hours – tell him you want to be released or have bail set as soon as possible.  Get people together to post your bail if needed.  Do not talk about your case with anyone except your attorney – no cops, guards, or inmates … even your spouse or girlfriend.  No one.  Not a single word.

What do you do when you’re arrested?  “I want an attorney.”  Then. Shut. Up.

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About Clyde

Clyde is the lead attorney in the firm. Licensed to practice in 1993, he's also taught Constitutional and Criminal Law for several years at a private university, primarily at the Master's level.

View all posts by Clyde

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