First – don’t panic. An arrest is not a conviction. One of the most important things you can do after you’ve been arrested is to stop talking. Do not talk to the police. Do not offer to give a statement. For any reason. The police will likely pressure you and say you are not cooperating, or if you start to work with them, the prosecutor will take it easy on you. If you have seen the Netflix documentary ‘Making a Murderer,’ you might recall the tactics the police used to wrest a confession out of 16-year-old Brendan Dassey. The police are allowed to lie to you in order to get you to talk. You might feel bad, or like you are being disrespectful, but you are fully within your rights to not speak to the police. The only thing you should say is ‘I want a lawyer.’ Once you assert your right to an attorney, the police cannot question you without a lawyer present. Do not let the police frighten you into speaking, with promises of leniency or threats that you’re making it harder on yourself. Request a lawyer, and say nothing else.
You will be taken to jail immediately, and booked in. You will be fingerprinted, and a mugshot will be taken. Sometimes, this can happen very quickly. But sometimes, particularly in a large city or in a place where a large event has occurred – or even on the weekends – booking can take hours. Be patient. Once you have been booked in, you will probably be in a holding cell. You might be tempted to speak openly with the people in there with you. That is fine – but do not, under any circumstances, tell them about the events leading to your arrest, what you have been arrested for, or anything to do with your case. The people sharing the cell with you are all potential witnesses. The state can subpoena them all to testify against you in the future. This same philosophy should apply to you once you are out of police custody and back home. Don’t talk to your family or friends about your case, and certainly don’t post anything on social media. Your attorney is the only person who should know any facts or details about your case. The police themselves warned you about it – anything you do or say can be used against you.
Once you’re booked, you might have the chance to get booked out of jail or released into a friend or family member’s custody, depending on the offense. If you did something really serious, then most states have a rule requiring you to be able to at least appear before a judge within 48 hours of arrest. This is where you will learn everything you have been charged with, and have the option to request bail or bond before the judge. Sometimes, at the same time, you have an arraignment hearing – where you have your charges read to you and you formally enter a plea (guilty or not guilty). You should always request a lawyer for these hearings, in order for them to explain the charges to you and answer for you in court.
For most offenses, you have the option to be bailed out and await future hearings while you are still out in the real world, making a living and being with your family. Always follow the advice of your attorney, and certainly do not do anything which could jeopardize your liberty or your case, such as committing another offense, speaking about your case to someone else, or missing future court hearings.
Above all – don’t panic. Be patient with the process, with your attorney and with the police. The system is designed to be a deliberate process, and sometimes it might feel that it drags on forever. Communicate honestly with your attorney and no one else, and you will likely get as good a result as possible under the circumstances.
If you or someone you know has recently been arrested, call one of our top criminal defense lawyers today at (212) 736-3900.