The first thing to do when you are arrested is to show respect to the police officer(s) making the arrest. I am not saying this to lecture you about your manners. I am saying this because police officers like to be treated with respect. Often times these police officers who are placing you under arrest will have some discretion on whether to charge you with a crime or let you go. They have discretion in whether to release you with a misdemeanor charge or to contact detectives to seek felony charges. Therefore, it is in your best interest to be polite and courteous to the police. I have seen many cases both as a prosecutor and a defense lawyer in which a client with a big mouth has talked himself/herself into more and greater charges by arguing and angering the police. Conversely, I have had many cases in which an officer that was treated well signs off on a reduction of charges in court. Important note: this does not mean to give a confession. Don't do that. Just be nice.
The Officer is Not Your Friend
I have learned that the best police officers and detectives are those that treat the person arrested with respect. When police yell and scream at suspects, the person tightens up and does not cooperate. It is the friendly officer who gets suspects to talk. Do not fall for this. "Nice" officers will often act as though they are your friend. They will offer "friendly" advice. They will politely tell you that if you "just tell us what you did, you will walk out of here tonight." These kinds of promises are almost always false. The officer is not your friend. It is his job to get a confession from you and then charge you with a crime. As I will discuss in a future section, it is best to realize you are your only friend when you are under arrest. Ask for a lawyer and politely decline to speak.
Ask For a Lawyer
The most important thing to do when you are under arrest is to immediately ask for a lawyer. The officer is not going to provide you with a lawyer. However, when you ask for a lawyer, the officer is no longer allowed to discuss the case with you. They are obligated to stop any and all questioning. They don't always follow this rule. Therefore you need to continue to ask for a lawyer. Eventually, they will stop questioning you. Your request for a lawyer can never be used against you. It is your constitutional right so take advantage of it. Police will often try and make you feel bad about asking for a lawyer. They might say, "if you are innocent, why do you need a lawyer?" Just continue to ask for a lawyer. Any statement you make will hurt you later.
Don't Try and Outsmart the Police
I often meet clients who made the horrible mistake of thinking they can outsmart the police. I don't care how smart you are, this is not your area of expertise. You will not be able to talk your way out of trouble. If the police have enough evidence to charge you, they will charge you. This is true regardless of what you say. The only thing you can doing by talking to the police about the case is to fill in the blanks necessary to charge you with the crime. I have seen many suspects who would have walked out the door of the police station until they opened their mouths and started talking. It is always best to politely ask for a lawyer and stop talking.
If you are Charged, Don't Talk to Anyone About your Case
If you should have the misfortune of being charged with a crime, do not talk to anyone about your case. You should only speak with your lawyer about your case. There are many people out in the world who do not care about you or your freedom. When you decide to share the details of your case with one of your "friends", it may come back to haunt you in a serious way. Many people are also facing prosecution. One way that they may catch a break on their case is to provide information about another person or crime. I have seen many cases where individuals talked to "friends" only to have the "friend" go to the police with the information. The bottom line is that you should only speak with your lawyer.
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