Every day in the United States, thousands of people are arrested by the police.
They come from all different backgrounds — men, women, young, old, rich and poor. They might’ve been caught red-handed, or they might’ve been victims of mistaken identity. They might’ve been arrested in the heat of the moment, or they might’ve been apprehended at home after a months-long investigation.
No matter who you are, how you react when you have been arrested can either make your situation better, or it can make it worse. It help you maintain your innocence, or it can give the prosecution more evidence against you.
This is what to do if you are arrested:
1. Do Not Run
Everybody has a “Fight or Flight” response. As soon as something happens that threatens your safety, your body releases a rush of adrenaline so you can physically respond to that threat.
Your first instinct might be to run when you see the police, but you have to fight that instinct.
Police are more likely to draw their weapons when chasing a suspect. Some police officers won’t hesitate to use those weapons, so choosing to stay can very well save your life.
Secondly, you could face additional charges and a more difficult trial by choosing to run. At your trial, the prosecution can ask for a special jury instruction to be read called “consciousness of guilt” (CALCRIM 372 in California), which tells the jury that by running, you might have known you were guilty.
2. Do Not Resist Arrest
If your “Fight or Flight” instinct is telling you to physically resist the police, it is very important for you to fight that instinct.
At best, you might try to bump or swat an officer’s hand, and your swat will get over-reported by the officer. All of a sudden, your harmless tap becomes felony assault on a police officer (California PC 241(c)).
At worst, the police officer could retaliate with an exponentially greater amount of force. It’s very likely that you could sustain serious injuries — or worse — in what the officer would claim was necessary force to restrain a suspect resisting arrest.
Remember: You are fighting the case, not the officer. Stay calm, stay put and don’t physically resist.
3. Firmly and Politely Request a Lawyer
Once arrested, you have the right to remain silent, and you should exercise it. No matter what the circumstances are, even if it seems like a simple misunderstanding, don’t talk your way out of it. Don’t talk about any facts of the case with the police. Ask for an attorney, and wait to talk until you have spoken with your attorney.
Police do not care if you say you are innocent. Instead, they are trained to get you to reveal more evidence to help the prosecution. Police will distort the facts of the case, ask leading questions and they will try to intimidate you in order to get a confession.
Many countries their police from lying about evidence in order to produce confessions, but in the United States and in California, it is legal for the police to lie to you about the evidence they have on you.
The best thing you can do is politely and firmly notify the police that you will not submit to any questioning until you are joined by your attorney. If you have been suspected of a crime, the deck is stacked against you. Even the odds by getting a legal expert in your corner.
4. Be Careful Where You Look
Police are trained to watch you immediately after you are arrested and use your behavior to search for clues. If they see you looking in a specific direction, they will likely begin searching that area.
On that note, if they begin searching something, you need to put on your best poker face. It is often best to just look down and not give them anything to work with.
5. Do Not Let the Police Inside Your House or Car
If you’ve been arrested outside of your home, the police officer might offer to take you inside to change, talk to your wife, get some water, etc. If you’ve read this far in the article, you should know that this is a trick.
If you let the police inside your house, they will immediately begin searching for evidence.
Similarly, they might offer to help “secure” your car. Again, don’t fall for it. This is a question where they ask for your consent to handle your car, and it gives them free rein to search your car.
It’s important that if police attempt to search your home or car without a warrant that you do not consent to the search. There are some loopholes they can use to legally search anyway, but depending on the facts of the case, any evidence obtained during an illegal search is inadmissible in court, which can strongly help your defense.
Don’t physically obstruct them or resist in any other way. All you have to do is politely and firmly state that you do not consent to searches of your home or car.
6. Call for Help
Once arrested, you will likely be taken to a local jail or police station to be processed. If you’ve invoked your right to remain silent, this is where you will be given an opportunity to make a phone call to an attorney, family or a bail bondsman.
You typically only get one phone call, and it will likely be from the phone at the jail. You should assume that your call is being monitored and be careful to not say anything incriminating.
As well, of course, the arresting officer likely isn’t going to let you use your phone or his smartphone. If you don’t immediately have the number of an attorney and/or bail bondsman, an option is to call a trusted friend or family member and ask them to do the research for you. Of course, they need to work quickly.