It isn’t over just because the officer arrested you. You have not been convicted of a crime, and may still escape without any permanent consequence other than the severe inconvenience of the arrest and a brief stay in jail. It is easy to despair, but don’t give up! If you let your guard down even for a moment, you may give the authorities all the evidence they need to convict you.
Remain Silent, Ask for a Lawyer
Remember to remain silent and to ask for a lawyer, and to keep following these rules unless you are speaking to your lawyer in private. Do not allow anyone to goad you in to talking, or in to giving up your right to an attorney.
You Are Always Being Recorded
Assume that you are being recorded from the beginning. There are video and audio recording devices everywhere. The police often have a cameras running even before they stop you. The police often have recording equipment in the car, on the front of the car to record the stop, and in the police station or jail. Your calls to family or friends will virtually always be recorded. Your interactions with court commissioners and judges are recorded as well.
If you are speaking to an attorney, make sure that no one is within earshot, and verify that your conversation is not being recorded. Some officers like to stay nearby in hopes of overhearing your conversation. Remember that your communications with your attorney are only protected if you take steps to protect their secrecy and ensure that no one else can hear what you are saying. Do not speak with anyone about what you said to your attorney, or what your attorney said to you.
Do not talk about the event or any criminal activity to anyone other than your attorney, and especially not other prisoners. Even if there isn’t a camera or other recording device nearby, you need to realize that other prisoners may have been placed in the cell with you in the hope that you will brag about your exploits, or otherwise admit something which can then be used against you in court.
The Police Are Allowed to Lie to You
The police are allowed to lie to you, and to make up fanciful stories about the evidence against you. They will often express false sympathy. It is their job to trap you. Do not be fooled. The officer cannot help you. An admission to the police will not help you. Despite what you may be told, there is nothing that you can say that will allow you to go home.
Even if you feel that moral or religious obligation requires you to confess, there is no reason that you need to do it right away. You can wait until your lawyer negotiates a deal that works for you.
After you are arrested, you will usually be brought up before a district court commissioner within hours, who is there to determine the terms of your pretrial release. Depending on your background and the crimes with which you are charged, he may release you on only your promise to appear in court as required, set a bond for your release, or have you held without bond. The commissioner can also set conditions upon your pretrial release. It is very important that you follow any conditions of pretrial release to the letter, as a violation of those conditions may result in multiple months of incarceration for only the most minor of infractions.
Your interactions with the commissioner will generally be recorded. The commissioner is a judicial officer and not a police officer. Unlike a police officer, a commissioner will not usually encourage you to incriminate yourself, and should not ask you any questions about the underlying facts of any accusations against you. He will usually ask you your name, where you live, where you work, and what charges you have been convicted of in the past. The commissioner usually has at least part of your criminal record available to him when he asks you these questions, and a perceived lie about the fact of a prior conviction is likely to increase your bond, and may result in you being held without bond. It is possible, but unlikely, that the answer to these basic questions may incriminate you, such as when your address itself may tend to prove that you are guilty of a crime. If you believe that an answer may incriminate you, or if the commissioner asks about the details of a crime, you should not answer until you have consulted with an attorney. You have the right not to answer, and you also have the right to have an attorney present while you are speaking to the commissioner. Choosing not to answer may increase the bond set by the commissioner, or may result in you being held without bond until you are brought before a judge during the next court session.
So long as the commissioner does not ask about any underlying fact of any crime that you have been charged with, it is generally a good idea to answer his questions. Be wary of any police officer that says he is helping the commissioner or doing things for the commissioner. It may be an attempt to extract information that you should not provide. Speak only to the commissioner him or herself.
If you are still in jail after 24 hours, you will be brought before a district court judge, who will determine the amount of your bond, and the conditions of your pretrial release, much as the commissioner did before him. There are some offenses for which a judge must decide your pretrial release, rather than a commissioner. If you are not represented by an attorney, the judge will likely ask you questions similar to those asked by the commissioner. If you are represented, you should allow your counsel to speak on your behalf.
If you have been arrested, or if you believe you may be arrested, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Please contact me today at (301) 556-8709.