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What should I know if I am arrested?

Getting arrested can be one of the most frightening, as well as complicated experiences one can endure.  However, knowing your rights ahead of time and what to do if you are faced with this situation is imperative in making sure that your constitutional rights are not violated and that you remain safe.

To be arrested means you are taken into custody on suspicion of committing a criminal offense.  “Arrest” means that you are not free to leave the scene.  However, even if you are not arrested, you still could be detained or held for questioning for a short time only if law enforcement believes you may be involved in a crime.  You cannot be arrested or detained simply because of the color of your skin or because you may appear undocumented.  To detain or arrest you, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that you may have been involved, either directly or indirectly, in a crime.  It is important to know that whether you are arrested or detained, you do not have to answer any questions other than your identity.  Remember to be respectful to law enforcement, even when you refuse to answer questions.  Do not become angry or argumentative with the law enforcement officer as this will likely cause more problems.

If you are arrested, you have certain constitutional rights.  Law enforcement should read you a Miranda warning explaining these rights.  If you speak a language other than English, your Miranda warning will be provided in written form to you in your native language.  Your Miranda rights are as follows:  1) You have a right to remain silent.  Anything you say can be used against you.  2) You have a right to have a lawyer present while you are questioned.  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.  If you are not given a Miranda warning, your lawyer can ask that any statements you made to law enforcement not be used against you in court.  This does not apply if you volunteer information without being questioned by law enforcement.  You can be questioned, without an attorney present, only if you voluntarily give up your Miranda rights and if you understand that you are giving up those rights.  If you agree to the questioning and then change your mind, the questioning must stop as soon as you say so or as soon as you say that you want an attorney.

If you are arrested for a crime, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.  He or she has a better sense of what you should and should not say to law enforcement officers to avoid being misinterpreted or misunderstood.  The attorney also can advise you as to your release from custody.  If you are arrested on a Misdemeanor and law enforcement decides to proceed with prosecution, you will be released from custody unless it reasonably appears to law enforcement that you will commit further criminal conduct, injure another, or not respond to a citation.  If you are held for one of these reasons, you must be brought before a Judge within 36 hours after the arrest (exclusive of the day of the arrest, Sundays and legal holidays).  If you are arrested on a Felony, you will be held and must be brought before a Judge within 36 hours after arrest.  Once before a Judge, conditions of release (such as bail or a no-contact order) will be issued.  You will then have the ability to post bail or agree to other conditions in order to be released from custody.

If you have not already, it is imperative you contact an attorney when you are released from custody.  An attorney will explain the criminal charges against you.  An attorney will explain your rights to you and will discuss the allegations and any defenses that may be available to you in your case.  Many criminal offenses have non-criminal consequences.  They may affect your immigration status, your ability to carry a firearm, your ability to drive, your ability to obtain certain licenses for employment purposes, ability to travel, etc.  Do not plead guilty to any criminal charge without first speaking to an attorney so you can be fully informed of your rights and any potential consequences of decisions related to your case.

© 2015 Rinke Noonan