You've Been Arrested, and Are Being Taken to Jail. What Now?


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Be aware of all surrounding circumstances during time spent with the arresting officer(s) and in the police vehicle.

Once the arresting officer has placed you in his or her vehicle to take you to jail for either processing or further testing, he/she may attempt to strike up what seems like a friendly conversation or ask you questions. Adrenaline may be wearing off and you might feel more like talking or explaining your actions. DON'T! After you've been arrested, the time for you to explain your innocence to the officer has passed. The officer has already made the decision to arrest you. Anything you say is likely being recorded, and even if not, what you say can and will be used against you in the prosecution of your case. That said, many helpful tips given below can help you in your eventual defense. Did the officer say or read anything to you? Did the officer talk to anyone else at the scene or en route? Who? If you didn't get a name, what did they look like or sound like? What was said? Write down any details about the arresting officer and any conversations as soon as possible


Be polite with the jail personnel, but remain silent about your case facts.

The entire process of being jailed and booked is rude, hurtful and embarrassing. However, you are not in charge. Lashing out at those around you will only make things worse. You will not win a war of words with the law enforcement officers. By being combative or abusive, you may galvanize the cops against you. The 5th Amendment to the Constitution grants you the absolute right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself during your arrest and booking process. This right applies to everyone in every state-- citizens, legal aliens, and undocumented aliens alike. Your silence cannot be used against you in court, but your spontaneous statements (not gained by police interrogation) can be. Tell police or jailers that you wish to remain silent, but keep in mind that you should still be appropriately polite. Beyond providing the police ID info such as your name, address, and driver's license, you are not obliged to answer any further questions, such as your prior arrest record.


Note names of witnesses, jail staffers, and sober and credible cellmates.

A significant part of your case may come down to the word of the officers against yours. In spite of the law requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, most judges and jurors give significant credence to the police. Your side of the story gains credibility with every witness and every piece of evidence that you can gather for your defense. Even if someone you met or saw in jail cannot add directly to your defense, they may be able to help in other ways, such as directly contradicting some claim by the officer about your demeanor or behavior. To utilize such evidence for your case, obtain the names of the people you meet in jail (or remember those you met) and do your best to note their addresses and phone numbers. If you are able to take notes, politely ask these individuals (guards, nurses, intake photographer or book-in personnel, other detainees, paddy wagon driver, etc.) directly for their contact info and write it down as you go. All this goes to your attorney ASAP.


Use "911" to record a message if you are "stonewalled" or ignored.

The law enforcement officers who are holding you may be too busy, or may SAY that they are too busy, to give you the opportunity to obtain an independent test or get in touch. They certainly have different priorities for the immediate future than you do! If something important happens (like you suddenly remember critical details about your situation, or you meet someone who may be pivotal in your defense, or you urgently need to establish an indisputable time-line) and the officers who are holding you are either stalling you from contacting your lawyer or ignoring you entirely, dial "911" and record your message when the operator takes your call. This system records everything and these tapes are preserved for weeks after your call. You may be chastised for wasting the operator's time, but your statements will be preserved as possible evidence for your defense. Remember, though, anything you say (and HOW you say it) becomes accessible and usable by the prosecutor as well.


Get help posting your bond and get out of jail ASAP.

Nothing good happens while you are in jail. Anyone who might be a witness in your favor will only track your dilemma if you tell him or her why you need his ot her help. If possibly, witnesses need to write things down while these details are fresh in their mind. Any physical evidence at the scene of your arrest (particularly after an accident) is being rained on, driven over or otherwise being altered by nature. The location of your field tests can be very important to your defense. Your car may still be in the parking lot where you were stopped or at the tow service storage yard until you get out of jail. The police already have obtained and documented most of the alleged evidence of your alleged impairment, which is going to be used by the prosecution. Spending extra time in jail rather than immediately retaining a top attorney and (through your legal counsel) documenting evidence and gathering facts and information for your defense will only work to your detriment.


Record your side of the story and contact a lawyer.

Immediately write down all details of your events of the entire day of your arrest and the exact conversations between you and any law enforcement officer after the stop. Some of the most critical details that could help in your eventual defense happened not at the scene of your arrest, but in the minutes and hours before your contact with police and what you remember as part of your arrest processing. When did you get up? How long had it been since you slept? Write down everything you ate, everything you drank, everywhere you went and everyone with whom you spoke. Simple details like what aftershave or cologne you might have put on before your arrest, or the fact that you had dinner with a friend at a restaurant a half hour before your arrest, could provide critical information in your defense. A waiter's or bartender's name and number may be vitally important. Document everything for your lawyer, and let him or her sort through what is potential evidence for court.


Recover your vehicle and have a good friend or investigator take digital photos or even video footage of it, inside and out.

As soon as you are released from your DUI-DWI arrest, you will want to get your car. You want to protect your property from theft or from exposure to the elements ASAP. If it was parked in another unsecure area or private lot, you want to recover it as swiftly as possible. Most tow company lots are not exactly secure either. Also, if for whatever reason your license is suspended when you are released, have someone else drive the car home for you. In terms of your defense, it is also prudent to retrieve your car at once so that you can have someone else take pictures (digital is preferred) of the vehicle inside and out. Be sure to obtain pictures of any alcoholic containers (bottles, glasses, etc.) or alcohol packaging (cardboard, paper bags, etc.) that remain in your vehicle, both where they were when you first open the vehicle and also when moved outside of the car. Also get a friend to make photos of the scene of your arrest, with your car in its original position.


Keep quiet about your arrest details and stay out of trouble while the case is pending.

A conviction for impaired driving can affect your job, your insurance rates and your life. While your case is still active, the two best things you can do are to stay quiet about the facts of your case and stay out of trouble! Only give this info to your attorney. Theoretically, any words you say while the case is pending can be used against you. Your chat with your co-worker could come back to haunt you if the prosecutor comes to speak with him about any details he may know. The only person who should know the entire situation is your attorney. Ask your attorney how to broach the topic of the arrest with your employer, and how to arrange time off to be at court proceedings. Most importantly, keep your record spotless while the case is pending. Nothing can terminate a possible reduction of charges quicker than a new violation, especially if it is an impaired driving accusation. Stop at stop signs, use turn signals, and by all means do not have even a sip of alcohol and drive.


Get busy!

Do not allow this arrest to take over your life. Once you hire your attorney, shift the burden of the case to him or her. Keep working at your job. Not only will this help keep some normalcy in your life and give you a positive distraction, but it will also help you pay for what can be an expensive process. This expense is not just in legal fees. You must consider other expenses such as fines, investigator fees, fees for expert witness testimony and future time off from work to deal with the case proceedings, among other expenditures. Stay positive! Increase time at your church or at volunteer work. Start an exercise program. Just move forward on the right path, whatever that may be for you. If you suspect having a problem with alcohol / drugs, ask your attorney for a referral to a state-approved treatment and rehabilitation program that can only improve your quality of life. This early action to obtain treatment may be vital to your case later, whether you go to trial or not.

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© 2009, William C. Head, Atlanta, GA.

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