More often than not, Ghostbusters is the answer to the above question. However, Ghostbusters, while able to exterminate even the biggest of marshmallow men, probably cannot help you get out of the slammer. As a lawyer who practices in criminal defense, among other areas, I probably get the question of “What to do if arrested” more than any other. So, let’s take it step by step, but hope that you never have to worry about it.
Keep in mind that there are a multitude of legal issues concerning a valid arrest, but just for this article’s sake, we are assuming that there was a valid arrest. Also, this article is only dealing with misdemeanors. Check back for articles dealing with these other items in the near future.
1. Be Cooperative – Ok, so you’ve been arrested. First and foremost, be cooperative! Sometimes it is hard to do, especially if you believe you have been wrongly arrested, but being cooperative will help your cause. Misdemeanors are typically heard in magistrate or municipal court. These are smaller courts that only deal with smaller issues. Therefore, the officer and his/her testimony are given great weight. It may seem odd to a person that has never been arrested or even been cited with a speeding ticket, but the defense attorney literally will ask the officer to help him out on certain charges. Particularly, if there are multiple charges, they will often dismiss one charge if the defendant pleads guilty to another charge IF the defendant was cooperative. I have had cases where I read the complaint and thought it would be an easy case to get dismissed. Then, I talk to the officer who says, “yeah, you’re client is a piece of sh!t!” I wish I could say that this does not matter and the facts should stand for themselves, and a good defense lawyer will get your case dismissed. This is just not true in these smaller courts. Magistrates are not even attorneys; they take a 6-week course that “qualifies” them to hear important cases. There are some very good magistrates out there, but most times even the good ones side with the State.
2. Call an attorney – Attorneys get a bad rap for inflated fees and taking your money even if they cannot help. However, this really is not the case. Attorneys do many things that clients do not see which help their case. It is important to call an attorney before you are taken to the station for an arraignment because the magistrate will set your bond. There are several key items that a magistrate must know when setting bond and without an attorney, you may not know what these are and the magistrate probably will not ask; your criminal background (if any), your ties to the community, or whether you are a flight risk are a few of these items. The most ideal bond is referred to as a Personal Recognizance Bond or PR bond. This simply means that on your signature or “word” the court trusts that you will attend any and all court hearings and that you are not a risk to the public. The conditions of bond are also important, and an attorney will be certain to clear up any items that could potentially post problems, such as being able to leave the county or state. If you cannot afford an attorney and there is a possible penalty of jail time, the court will provide you with one, but only after your arraignment. Some attorneys will agree to represent you solely for the arraignment for an hourly rate, so it cannot be overstated how important it is to call an attorney. This will save you many headaches later!
These two steps are also extremely important if you are arrested and charged with a felony. Felonies are much more serious crimes that involve a multitude of hearings that will eventually be heard in circuit or an intermediate court. Check back very soon on what to do if you are arrested and charged with a felony.