Being arrested can be a terrifying and stressful experience, regardless of whether you actually did anything wrong. You aren’t sure what’s going to happen to you, you don’t know whether you can believe your arresting officer, and you have no idea what you’re supposed to do next.
If you ever find yourself in this position, there are a few important steps that can help you emerge unscathed—or at least minimize the negative impact of the experience.
It may be difficult, but it’s important to remain calm during this situation. If you’re too anxious or too stressed, you might make an impulsive decision. You might execute a knee-jerk reaction that makes it look like you’re resisting arrest, you may accidentally lie, or you may speak emotionally. Instead, calm your nerves and try to think through every decision you make from here on out. Take deep breaths and take your time when answering questions.
Talk to a Lawyer as Soon as Possible
Your number one priority should be contacting a criminal defense attorney, and contacting them as soon as possible. Criminal defense lawyers are there to help you understand your rights, protect you from the police by observing the arrest proceedings, and provide you with advice on how to proceed. It’s your right to have a lawyer present, and their professional advice can help you make all the right moves.
Aside from improper police procedures, there are many things that don’t come to mind after being arrested, because believe it or not, being arrested can result in shock. Guilt notwithstanding, being arrested is a traumatic and life altering event. Things like being evicted rarely come to mind while you are sitting in the back of a police car. Having a lawyer on your side from the beginning is essential because many times there are laws and services in place that you don’t have any idea exist. For instance the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act requires the plaintiff (in this case the evil landlord trying to kick you out) must meet all the legal requirements in order to verify whether someone is an active military service or a veteran before going to court. This can get you time needed to get your affairs in order, if you do end up being evicted.
Until you have a lawyer by your side, don’t take any major actions. Also, don’t try to do this on your own, even if you think you know what you’re doing.
Be Polite and Cooperative
For the most part, it’s important to be polite and cooperative. If you resist the arrest in any way, or if you appear to be fighting back, you could look guilty and/or bring resisting arrest charges against yourself. Running is also a bad option. Instead, submit to the arrest and cooperate with the police. The nicer and more cooperative you are, the more they’re going to be willing to help you, and the smoother things are going to go.
Don’t Say More Than Necessary
Aside from getting a lawyer, this is the most important tip in this article. Never say more than you absolutely have to. That means avoiding answering questions, giving short, succinct answers, and not volunteering additional information. Remember, you aren’t obligated to answer any questions; silence is perfectly acceptable.
There are two strong points relevant to this:
- Never admit guilt. The biggest point is to never admit your guilt. Don’t apologize. Don’t say that something is yours. Don’t try to make excuses for what you did. Don’t acknowledge any kind of wrongdoing. If you admit your guilt in any way, the police will be able to use it against you.
- Don’t lie. Similarly, you don’t want to be caught in a lie—even if you didn’t mean to. Stating that you were at a friend’s house, then saying you were at a park can be perceived as a lie that compromises your story. Avoid the possibility altogether by saying less overall.
If the police are pressuring you, you can always say something like, “I’m not sure,” or “I’d prefer not to answer until my lawyer is here.”
Keep Mental Note of How You Were Arrested
Pay close attention to the circumstances of your arrest. Who was there? How did they treat you? Did they respond with excessive force? Did they read you your rights? Keep mental note of this, and when you get an opportunity, write down the details. In some cases, your case can be thrown out if you weren’t arrested “properly.”
Don’t Believe the Police
It’s entirely legal for the police to lie to you. They may promise you lax sentencing that they can’t really guarantee. They may lie about having evidence that they don’t really have. They may imply they know more than they actually do. They will work hard to get you to confess, because that makes their job easier. Don’t be fooled. Just stay quiet until you have a lawyer.
Don’t Allow Searches
If given the option, don’t allow any additional searches. Officers may ask you if they can search your person, search your vehicle, or search your home. You don’t have to give them permission, and it’s not an admission of guilt to refuse the search. Be insistent, and if your rights are violated, take note.
Getting arrested doesn’t mean you’re going to be convicted. Try not to let it get you riled up. Instead, pay close attention to what’s happening to you, remain polite and cooperative, and most importantly, stay quiet—never say more than you must. At the nearest opportunity, contact a criminal defense lawyer and get their protection and advice.