If you have been arrested, you are probably scared. Many people do not expect to go to jail but many people are arrested every day. Some studies show that about 10,000 innocent people are convicted of a variety of crimes every year. If you have been arrested for anything from weapons offenses to drug crimes, driving with intoxicated (DWI) or assault, you may not know what to do. Here are tips to help get you through the rough time.
- Do not tell law enforcement anything. If you are being arrested, you will be read your Miranda Rights. Most people around the United States know about this from television shows such as “Law andamp; Order.” You can get into trouble if you lie to police or other law enforcement but they are under no rule that says they need to be honest with you. In fact, they may lie, a lot. Your best bet, and this is harder to do than it should be, is to stay quiet until you get a lawyer. You should also know that law enforcement cannot hold you indefinitely without charging you with a crime.
- Get out of jail as quickly as you can. If you are in jail, you need to get out if you can. When you are first arrested, say for weapons offenses, you will get in front of a judge for what is called “first appearance.” The judge will determine if you are eligible for a bond or will be released. If you have a bond, you need to do whatever you can to pay it. There are some people who will tell you that you can do as much for your defense in jail as you can from jail but that is nonsense. You will also do your mental health a huge favor by getting out to work on your defense.
- Find the right kind of lawyer. Just like medical professional, attorneys specialize. You need to get a lawyer who has a lot of experience dealing with cases like yours. Within the realm of criminal defense law, there are sub specialties. If you face charges for weapons offenses, you need a lawyer who has a lot of experience dealing with those. The more experience they have helping people who were in a similar boat to yours, the better.
- Talk to the people you know and trust. Most people do not announce to the world when they have been arrested. In 2012, there were 12,196,959 arrests, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Given that high number, you may know people who have been arrested who never told you. If you ask around, you may find that you know people who have needed help from a defense attorney. You may not end up hiring the same law firm but they can get you started with a list of lawyers to talk to.
- Interview several law firms. All criminal defense law firms offer free consultations to prospective clients. You should take advantage of this to interview at least three law firms. As tempting as it is to hire the first law firm you talk to, you should resist that. You need to know what your options are and find the right attorney and practice for you needs. Here are some questions that you should ask:
- How long have you worked in criminal defense and how much time do you spend on these cases? You want a law firm with experience and who does a decent number of criminal defense law.
- How much experience do you have with this kind of case? If you have been charged with weapons offenses, you want a lawyer who has experience working on that kind of case.
- Who will work on my case? Most law firms employ paralegals, legal assistants and other administrative professionals to help with their caseload. You should be able to meet the different people working on your case.
- How much experience do you have in court? Nearly 96% of all cases are decided via a plea but you need a lawyer with courtroom experience if you end up in court.
You can get through this rough time in your life with the help of the right lawyer.