It can happen to anyone. People get arrested, even when they haven’t committed a crime. Most don’t know what to do when being arrested. But whether you have or have not broken the law, you still have rights. To preserve these, you need to be aware of the ten most important things not to do when being arrested.
- Don’t talk to the police at any point. This includes in the car and at the station. You don’t want to accidentally incriminate yourself. The arresting officer is doing his or her duty and has no say on whether or not you are innocent. There is no point in trying to talk yourself out of getting arrested. Anything you say can and will be used against you, and will only complicate your defense. The right to remain silent is an extremely valuable right. Simply ask to speak to a lawyer and refuse to answer any other questions.
- Don’t run from the police. No matter how great the urge to run or what state of mind you are in. You aren’t going to outrun the police, but you might end up facing additional charges. You will even be putting yourself in danger, as the police may be suspicious that you have a weapon, and draw their own for protection. To make matters worse, running is going to be seen as an admission of guilt in front of a jury. After all, why would you run if you weren’t guilty of something?
- Never resist arrest. Besides not running, do not be combative in anyway. You may be disorientated or angry, especially if you are being wrongly arrested. Don’t react or lash out. If an officer reaches to handcuff you, allow them to. Don’t swat at their hands, shove, or pull away. To you it may just be a natural reaction to the situation, but if you lay a hand on the officer, all it takes is a little exaggeration by an officer and suddenly you’re facing a felony. If you feel the police have violated your rights in anyway, bring it up to your lawyer later but during the moment of arrest there is absolutely no point in putting up a fight.
- If the police come to your door, don’t let them in and don’t step outside. Usually, the police need an arrest warrant to arrest you inside your home. If you allow them in, they can arrest you and may try to search your home. If you step outside, they can arrest you. Be polite, firm, and clear. Tell the officer that you are comfortable speaking with them at the front door and they are not allowed inside. Ask the officer, “Do you have a warrant to arrest me or come into my home?” If they are going to arrest you, they will come back with the warrant. In the meantime, you can prepare yourself by calling your lawyer. By doing this you can reduce or eliminate time spent in custody before bail.
- Don’t believe the police. The police are trained to tactically question you in order to get you to talk and admit guilt. Be clear that you will not speak to them without a lawyer, no matter what they try to tell you. They may claim to have evidence against you and that it will be far better for you to admit guilt. They may say your friend ratted you out. Or they may simply try to persuade you that telling them everything is in your best interest – that it will be easier for you. It’ll only be easier to prove your guilty if you confess.
- Don’t give consent to being searched. If they ask, it’s because they don’t have the right to search. If they ask for keys or access to your home or car, say loudly that you do not give them permission, especially if there are bystanders around to serve as witnesses. If they search you or your property without permission, anything they find will most likely not be admissible in court. Even if you have nothing to hide, it’s possible the police may find something incriminating that doesn’t belong to you, such as illegal drugs or weapons left by a family member or friend.
- If you’re being searched by the police, don’t look at places where you don’t want the police to search. This is often the first instinct when nervousness kicks in but it’s best not to engage with the police at all during a search. Stay out of the way and look down. This is another instance of when to exercise your right to remain silent. Don’t respond to questions regarding anything they find during the search.
- If possible, get the names and badges of the police who arrested and dealt with you. It’s your right to know this information, especially if you feel they have violated your rights in anyway. If the arrest was made under the discretion of an officer with a history of complaints against him for misuse of power or discrimination, that will help your case.
- If you’re arrested outside your home, don’t accept an offer to go back to your house or car from the police. They aren’t suggesting a moment to talk with your wife or the chance to lock up your car out of courtesy. They’re looking for a way to search your property without a warrant.
- Finally, don’t panic. It isn’t easy to remain calm after hearing the phrase “you are under arrest.” Especially, if it comes as a surprise. But being courteous and even friendly will go much further with your arresting officers than calling names, being rude and flippant, or throwing a fit. Cooperate and give them the necessary information for processing. They may choose to be more or less lenient, depending on their interaction with you.
Following these guidelines will put you on the right track to help preserve and defend your rights. The next step is to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to further clarify your case and provide the professional help you need.