Getting arrested is traumatic. It’s what you do next that matters most. Here are 7 rules to follow to help you along.
Relax. Stay calm. We don’t do our best thinking when we’re stressed. So here’s some truth: This is serious, but it’s not life and death. Most people charged with a crime never see the inside of a jail cell. Most cases are resolved without a criminal conviction. There are a lot of really good lawyers in Western New York and if you find one that you like and is experienced and skilled, you’ll be just fine.
Shut up. At the risk of being rude, Shut up. You cannot change the outcome of your case yourself and you’ve probably already done more harm than good. Sure Police Officers have some discretion on whether to arrest you, but once they have made the decision to charge you, there is nothing you can really do but make things worse. The thing is, they’re not required to tell you when they’ve made that decision. After you give your name and provided ID, you can ask if it is okay for you to leave. If the answer is no, tell the officer you will not answer any more questions without a lawyer. They won’t give you a lawyer, because they only have to give you one if they want to keep asking questions. So instead of calling in a lawyer, they won’t ask anymore questions.
Whether you are innocent or guilty, it does not matter. The police are not interested in guilt or innocence. They are interested in “Probable Cause”. Once they have enough information to believe that its probable that you committed a crime, they are going to arrest you, even if they’re wrong.
You’re not going to talk them out of it. But they are writing everything you say down. If you say anything that’s incorrect, they use that to claim you are a liar.
Give the police your name and basic information. Give them nothing about the allegations against you.
If you appear in front of a judge, you should have a lawyer with you, and if you did not bring one, the Court should have given you one. If they don’t, then ask for one. Do not speak on your own behalf.
Find your lawyer. If you make more than $50,000 a year, you probably don’t qualify for public lawyer. Public lawyers are paid by the Government to represent people that cannot afford to hire a lawyer. While many of these lawyers are good and many of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys accept cases on this basis, the Government does not pay them much. For that reason, if you can afford to hire a good lawyer, you should.
Before you agree to hire an attorney, make sure you’re comfortable with their experience and ability to communicate with you. It does not matter how experienced or brilliant a lawyer is, if they cannot interact effectively with you, they will put you at risk.
The best lawyer is the one you can effectively communicate, that makes you feel most comfortable.
Don’t lie to your lawyer. There is nothing that says you are required to tell your lawyer anything about your case, but if you choose to tell your lawyer anything, make it the truth. Because a good lawyer will investigate anything a client says, the more you lie, the more you are wasting time, which limits your lawyer’s ability to work on real issues that may actually help.
Avoid the drama. You may be tempted to investigate your own case. Don’t do it. If you have specific concerns about your case, tell your attorney. A quality defense attorney will investigate every case thoroughly. Too many things can and do go wrong when people try to investigate their own cases.
Don’t talk about your case. Even after you hire your lawyer, your family and friends may want to know what happened. Don’t do it. Keep the facts of your case to yourself. If necessary, tell them that your lawyer ordered you not to talk about your case. When you tell someone a fact about your case, you are making that person a witness. Don’t make witnesses.
Follow your lawyer’s instructions. Your lawyer will identify things that you can do to improve the outcome in your case. For example, in some cases, a drug and alcohol evaluation may be indicated. Ask your lawyer what you can do to help and do what they tell you to do.