A siren is sounding, blue lights are flashing, and an officer is instructing you to place your hands behind your back. You’ve just been arrested. What do you do now?
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are arrested. The vast majority of arrestees never thought they would find themselves in handcuffs. Some react in a very unwise, but understandable manner; others defeat themselves by being simply too nice to their arresting officers. Here’s how you should ideally behave if you ever get arrested. Tip one: your first call should be to your attorney, not your mother.
Do not plead your innocence.
Pleading your innocence to an officer is a waste of your time. The officer hears similar pleading all day, every day, for every suspect he or she arrests. An officer does not care if you are innocent or not, and has little say in whether you are guilty or innocent, anyway. If you waste time trying to convince an officer that he or she is making a mistake, you may unknowingly reveal something which hurts your case. It’s much smarter—and safer—to skip the begging and pleading, and save the matter of your innocence for your defense lawyer.
If you remember only one tip from this list, remember this: Do Not Talk. You have the right to remain silent, which means that you cannot be legally penalized for refusing to answer an officer’s questions. You should continue to remain silent all the way to the police station and throughout every stage of the arrest process. Many suspects will start babbling before the police have even asked a single question, and will thereby unwittingly give away important details concerning their case. Remember that once you have been arrested, you are playing a game whose rules are unbeknownst to you, and the smartest thing you can do is refuse to play at all.
This seems like it would be basic common sense. But a surprising number of people run from their arresting officer–thereby making their situations much worse. It is highly unlikely that you can outrun an officer with a radio car and a network of fellow officers on duty. More importantly, if you run, an officer might suspect—or say he suspects—that you have a weapon, and draw his own firearm. Many officers are delighted to use the fact that you are running as an excuse to injure you unnecessarily—so resist your instinct to flee, and stay where you are.
Do not antagonize the police.
Americans currently live in a very politically charged climate when it comes to policing and criminal justice. When you are being arrested, you may be tempted to offer your officer a few of your own opinions about law enforcement. However, harassing an officer is a very ill-advised decision. Your officer does have the power to change a misdemeanor charge to a felony, add charges, or even ask your prosecutor to go hard on you. So swallow your pride, keep your head high, and resist the temptation to deliver a few good verbal jabs as you’re being arrested. If you cannot refrain from making antagonistic remarks, do not speak at all.
Do not touch an officer for any reason.
The vast majority of people will not actually strike their arresting officer. But it is crucial to understand that ANY physical contact with an officer can be over-reported by the officer as “assault”. Do not push the officer, bump shoulders with him or her, or push his or her hands away. “Assault of a police officer” is a charge you absolutely do not want on your record, as it can change a petty misdemeanor, like shoplifting, into a felony crime.
Pulling away from an officer is merely resisting arrest, and oftentimes the police will not charge for it at all. However, as we have said in our Criminal Defense FAQ, the best way to behave during an arrest is to be as compliant and non-memorable as possible.
Remember that the officer is not your friend.
No matter how friendly, polite, or trustworthy your officer seems to be, remembering that police lie to suspects all the time. In fact, they are trained to do so through a practice called the Reid Technique. An officer may tell you that he has witnesses, video tape, fingerprints, or DNA evidence of your wrongdoing when in reality he has nothing of the kind. No matter what your officer says, do not confess to anything you did or did not do.
Officers will almost always tell suspects that confessing will “make it go easier” for them. This is an absolute lie. Confessing to an officer will NOT reduce your charges or help you in any way. It only makes it easier for one person—the officer. Judges and juries do not reduce sentences for people who have confessed or cooperated with an officer. While you may always choose to accept a plea bargain, that is a matter between you and your attorney only.
Do not give your permission for a search.
In the song 99 Problems, rapper Jay Z knew that an officer needed a warrant to search his trunk and glove compartment. Even though Mr. Carter did not “pass the BAR”, he was correct. If an officer asks you to hand over your keys or “step outside”, he is asking for you to consent to a search, and it is your right to refuse to do so. Instead, you should say, loudly, “you do not have my permission to search” or “you may not enter my home if you do not have a warrant.” If bystanders or witnesses can attest that you said this, anything that the officer finds during an unauthorized search can be excluded from the evidence later.
Remember that if the officer had enough evidence that you have committed a crime, he would be able to search your home or vehicle with or without your permission. The only reason he is asking for your permission in the first place is because he does not yet have that evidence—so do not give it to him.
Arrested in Greensboro? Hire a Greensboro Defense Attorney
If you are ever placed under arrest, it is very likely that you will panic. Anxiety about what is happening and how it will impact your future may drive all of this article’s tips right out of your head. If you remember only one thing, remember this: be respectful, be calm, and remain silent. Anything you say, even a small, seemingly insignificant detail, can be an extremely damaging admission. Allow the arrest to unfold easily, and wait until you are alone to discuss your options with your lawyer.