It isn’t over just because an officer arrested you in Maryland. 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. Don’t give up! I can help. If you let your guard down even for a moment, you may give the authorities evidence that they need to convict you, or spend unnecessary time in jail awaiting trial.
You have two basic goals. The first is to calmly ask for a lawyer and remain silent, so that you do not provide evidence that will put you in jail in the future, and the second is to get out on bond, so that you are not in jail while you are waiting for your trial date. You have a right to a lawyer at a bail hearing in Maryland, whether it is in front of a commissioner or a judge. You should exercise that right.
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. Make sure that you ask for a lawyer while you are remaining silent. Simply remaining silent without asking for a lawyer at the same time could be used against you. If questioning continues after you ask for an attorney, politely repeat your request for an attorney as many times as is necessary.
You cannot talk the officer out of arresting you, or talk them in to letting you go. Do not try. Calmly asserting your right to an attorney may result in a hostile response from the officer. The police officer may attempt to convince you that you will be in more trouble if you do not speak with them. Exactly the opposite is true. The reason that you may receive a hostile response is because you are winning. Their job is to collect evidence that could put you in jail. You are succeeding at making their job of collecting evidence against you harder. In the very rare case that it is advantageous for us to talk to them, we can do that later, together, in a way that protects you.
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. The police also may promise you leniency or some sort of benefit if you talk or help them somehow. Such promises are worth very little as they are unenforceable. If you do want to make a deal, I can make a deal on your behalf later with a State’s Attorney that is actually enforceable and benefits you.
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 Maryland 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.
You have a right to a lawyer at your hearing with the Maryland District Court commissioner, who may be present either in person or on the telephone. I can make a big difference at that hearing, both in whether you get out at all, and in the terms and conditions of your pretrial release. Getting a reasonable bail might not always be a victory if you are not allowed to go home afterward, which is often a condition of pretrial release.
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 Maryland District Court 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 prior charges you have. 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. The commissioner will usually know about charges and convictions both in Maryland and in other states. 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. This is one of the ways that a lawyer can help you at the hearing, as I can advise you which questions to answer and which not to answer in cases where that is an issue.
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 in Maryland after 24 hours, and possibly earlier, you will be brought before a district court judge on the next court day. The judge will then determine the amount of your bond, and the conditions of your pretrial release, much as the commissioner did before him. If you got a good result from the commissioner, but did not post bond before your hearing with the judge, the judge may raise your bond, or make the terms of your pretrial release more onerous.
There are some offenses in Maryland for which a judge must decide your pretrial release, rather than a commissioner. If you are not represented by an attorney, the judge may ask you questions similar to those asked by the commissioner. Your lawyer will speak on your behalf if you are represented.
If you or someone you know has been arrested, or if you believe you may be arrested, you should speak to me as soon as possible. Contact me today at (301) 556-8709, because no one wants to be in jail.