If you are arrested or detained for questioning by law enforcement about a criminal case, there are a few things to keep in mind that may help you tremendously if you have to defend yourself against criminal charges. Keep in mind that this is being offered as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice or a recommendation in any particular case. Among the important things to remember:
Unless you have been advised to do so by your attorney. In most cases, a police officer making an arrest or questioning you as a suspect has already come to a conclusion about his reason for arresting or questioning you. Do not try to explain "your side of the story" or try to talk your way out of being arrested, it will rarely help your situation.
Be polite and respectful, even if the arresting officer is not. Do not try to resist arrest, even if you feel you are being wrongly or mistakenly arrested.
If you have been arrested, the police officers may already have the right to search you and the area immediately around you. Police may have obtained a search warrant which gives them permission to search any person or place listed in the warrant. If an officer chooses to search you, do not attempt to physically stop him. However, whether you have been arrested or not, if an officer asks your permission to search- "You wouldn't mind if I took a look in your car would you?", politely decline to give permission for the officer to search. You may feel that refusing to consent to a search will make you appear more "guilty" or to have "something to hide", but in most cases "looking guilty" will not contribute to your conviction in a criminal case. Any evidence that the officer finds in a search usually will.
DO NOT CONSENT TO A SEARCH, even if you think the officer is going to search anyway. Sometimes in that situation, you may conclude that if the officer plans to search anyway, that it will help you to appear more cooperative if you just grant consent to search. But once you have consented to a search, you have in most cases waived any challenge to the officer's authority to conduct the search that your attorney might have later been able to raise. Even if it appears to frustrate or anger the officer, do not consent to a search. It probably won't keep him from conducting a search, but by refusing to consent you will keep the burden on the prosecution to prove that there was a legal basis for the search before the evidence can be used against you in court.
Understand that you have the right to remain silent and everything you say can be used against you. EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT, unless your attorney says otherwise. If you have been arrested there is a good chance you will be nervous, scared and/or confused. Sometimes in that state of mind, an arresting officer may attempt to scare you with threats of more serious charges or threats to arrest a family member or loved one if you don't "cooperate". Sometimes an officer will tell you that you will "make it easier on yourself" if you just admit your guilt. In either of these situations, it is extremely unlikely that making a statement will keep the police from arresting someone else that they had intended to arrest or that it will change your own situation significantly. Remember, you will have every opportunity to cooperate with the police in dealing with your case if you choose to, but it is important to talk to a lawyer before you attempt to do so.
Ask to have a lawyer present during any questioning by the police. You have a right to an attorney before and during any questioning. EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY. If you can not afford to hire an attorney, an attorney must be provided for you. The law requires that when you are in custody, once you have asked for an attorney, the police are not allowed to ask you any more questions. However, some officers may still ask you questions or even suggest that you don't need a lawyer or imply that asking for a lawyer will make your situation worse. If you have been arrested there is a good chance you will be nervous, scared and or confused. Regardless of what the officer may suggest: TELL THEM YOU NEED TO TALK TO A LAWYER.
Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you have the advice of an attorney the better.
Record the names, addresses, phone numbers, and any other important information about any witnesses that could help you. It is generally not advisable to contact potential witnesses yourself. Let your lawyer or his or her staff do that to avoid any notion that you are intimidating or attempting to influence the witness. Document, either through notes or other recordings, any defenses you may have to the charges. Photograph or videotape defense evidence, when appropriate. For example, if you have injuries that are relevant to your defense, photograph them if possible. If a particular location is relevant, you may want to photograph or videotape it. Be careful not to tamper with any evidence or even give the appearance of tampering with evidence. Taking notes and gathering information while it is fresh in your mind may help you tremendously, particularly if your case takes some time to resolve and your memory of people and events may fade. If you possess items that you believe could be evidence in your case, bring them to your lawyer's attention as soon as possible.
Take steps to get out of jail. If you know you may be arrested or if you are turning yourself in on an outstanding warrant, have a family member or trusted friend on notice with access to any funds you may have to post bail for you. If you have limited resources and have to choose between hiring a lawyer and posting a bond, it is generally advisable to hire an attorney first. If your bond is too high, have an attorney ask the judge for a bond reduction. In many cases, your attorney can get the bond amount lowered significantly.
If you are in jail while your case is pending, DO NOT DISCUSS YOUR CASE with other inmates or guards. Do not generally seek or follow the "legal advice" that other inmates are offering you. Consider the source. Do not discuss the facts of your case over the telephone with family and friends, as such calls are routinely recorded and are not confidential.
If you have co-defendants, do not contact them about the case or attempt to discuss the case with them unless your lawyer has advised you to do so. If they contact you that is fine, remain polite and friendly but explain that you can't talk about the case. That doesn't mean that you and your co-defendant are necessarily against one another, but it is generally best not to discuss the case outside of situations dictated by your lawyer.
Do not try to make a deal or negotiate with police or jailers about your case. Discuss your situation with an attorney. If you wish to negotiate, that is best accomplished between your lawyer and the prosecuting attorney.
If you or a loved one has been arrested it is important to get an experienced criminal defense lawyer advising you, working on your case, and fighting for you as quickly as possible. Contact the experienced criminal defense law firm of Ross G. Thomas today. The Law Office of Ross G. Thomas provides experienced legal representation to persons charged with serious crimes in state and federal courts throughout Indiana. If you are accused of a crime, you need a lawyer that will stand up for your rights.