We’re going to ignore the circumstances under which you’ve found yourself arrested. Maybe you made an innocent mistake, or maybe you got caught doing something you shouldn’t have been, or maybe you were mistaken for another person or wrongfully accused of a crime. The point is, you’ve been taken into custody, and if you want to maximize your chances of getting away unscathed (and ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible), there are some general rules you’ll need to follow.
What to Do
Here’s what you should be doing, once you realize you’re under arrest:
- Cooperate. It’s best to cooperate with your arresting officers as much as possible, and remain polite throughout the process. Even if you disagree with the reason you’re being arrested, or if the arrested officers are being rude, if you push back physically or attack your officers verbally, it’s only going to make things worse for you. At best, your arresting officers will be less willing to help you out, and at worst, you could end up facing a resisting arrest charge.
- Remain calm. Getting arrested is, for many, a terrifying and intimidating experience. However, if you want to come out on top, it’s imperative that you remain calm throughout your arrest. Remaining calm may help you look less guilty, but the most important reason to stay calm is to aid in your rational decision-making. If you let your emotions get the better of you, you may make a critical mistake, such as responding to an officer’s provocation or incriminating yourself.
- Contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You don’t have to do this alone, and you shouldn’t have to. You have the right to a criminal defense attorney, so it’s in your best interest to contact a defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will understand the arrest process far better than you, and will be able to offer you expert advice as you go through the next steps of that process. They’ll also protect you from unfair or illegal treatment, and will be able to follow your case all the way through trial (if it goes that far).
- Make sure you’re under arrest. Take a moment to verify with your officers that you’re actually under arrest. If you’re simply being detained, you should be held only for a brief and cursory interview. If you’re being questioned, you may be free to go. Sometimes, it may seem like you’re under arrest, when in reality, you’re free to go at any time. It’s worth verifying—and finding out, for sure, what you’ve been arrested for.
- Stall for time if you’re being questioned. You have a right to have an attorney present while you’re being questioned—and it’s the most important time to have one by your side. If the police start interrogating you before your lawyer arrives, stall for time. You can refuse to answer questions, or give short, one-word responses. You can even insist that you refrain from answering questions until your lawyer arrives. Just make sure to be calm, polite, and respectful during this process.
What Not to Do
While we’re at it, here are some things you shouldn’t do if you’ve been arrested:
- Avoid incriminating yourself. Take measures to avoid self-incriminating yourself. Don’t admit to partaking in any crime. If you admit that you were doing something against the law, it can be used against you—even if you merely mentioned it in passing, rather than making a formal confession. You can always remain silent if you aren’t sure how to respond.
- Don’t directly lie. However, it’s also a bad idea to directly lie to officers. Giving a false testimony or intentionally misleading officers is going to work against you. Instead of lying, give neutral statements, like “I don’t remember that clearly,” or “I’m not sure.” Again, you can always remain silent if you’re in doubt.
- Don’t argue with or insult your arresting officers. Antagonizing or insulting your arresting officers can make them less patient and more hostile toward you. Let your lawyer do the talking for you as much as possible, and in the meantime, exercise patience and restraint. The more cooperative and respectful you are with your arresting officers, the better you’re going to be treated.
These steps won’t guarantee that you’ll be let off, nor will they make the arrest process pleasant. However, they will help ensure that you’re treated with respect throughout the process, and will get you access to important legal assistance as soon as possible. Obviously, the best thing to do is avoid getting arrested in the first place, but if you ever find yourself in this position, you’ll know how to handle it.