Being Arrested: How to Avoid It and What Happens Afterwards
Congress and state legislatures regularly pass laws that often make certain acts a crime or increase the penalties for violations. These laws apply to citizens and immigrants. The police, the sheriff, state troopers, drug task force members, park rangers, FBI agents, DEA agents, ICE agents, and agents in numerous other agencies have the power to make arrests. What’s more, police can arrest a person even when the offense carries no jail time. Thus, federal and state law enforcement officials wield enormous power. Failing to obey criminal laws subjects a person to arrest, to being charged, having a trial going to jail, paying fine and may result in other sanctions: losing the right to vote or carry or own a firearm.
At times, officers or officials may choose not to make an arrest.
Remember, police have the discretion not to arrest you, particularly for minor offenses. So, don’t break the law in the first place, avoid suspicious places or associating with people who do not respect the law, violate the law, or are casual about following the law. If you are stopped by the police, here are some tips to try to avoid being arrested:
- Don’t drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If prescription medicines impair your ability to drive a vehicle safely, you can be charged with DUI.
- If you own or possess weapons, familiarize yourself with the requirements for carrying or keeping them. Don’t carry or possess an illegal firearm.
- Stay away from trouble.
- Don’t act or dress like a thug.
- Don’t start trouble and walk away when possible.
- When stopped by the police, don’t fight with or threaten them.
- Be respectful and courteous to the officers or officials, regardless of how they behave or act.
- Don’t curse, smart off, give them lip, or argue with police. If you do, the officer will more likely arrest you; but if you courteous and polite, the officer may let you go, the best result.
In spite of your efforts, you may still be arrested. When you are arrested, the police place you in their custody, meaning that you are not allowed to leave, handcuff you, search you, place you in the back of a squad car, and escort you to the station and/or jail; however, after you are arrested, but not before, police must read you Miranda Rights, meaning that you have the right:
- To remain silent;
- To be forewarned that the police and prosecutor WILL use your own words against you;
- To have an attorney to advise you during questioning and the process; and
- To be informed that if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed one for you, typically a public defender.
Remember, generally stop answering questions without a lawyer present and consult with a lawyer.
At the station or jail, the booking process occurs. The police will ask your name, birthday, and permanent address, and you will be fingerprinted and photographed. Depending on the offenses, you may be placed in a “lineup” or asked to provide a handwriting sample.
A bond will be set, or in some cases, you will be released on your own recognizance (ROR): you pay not bond but agree to come to court to face or defend against the charges. When an amount of bail is set, you must post a bond or secure the services of a bail bonding company to remain free and out of jail during the criminal process. Bail bonding company generally charge ten percent (10%) of the amount of the bond plus an administrative fee. If you do not appear at your scheduled court date, the bond may be forfeited, and the bondsmen or police will search for you and bring you in.
Briefly, at that point court dates will be set, you must appear in court and go through the criminal processes and courts — arraignment, preliminary hearing, motions, pleas, motions, trial, and more, depending on the nature of the charges. For more serious crimes, after appearing in a lower court, you will likely be bound over to the grand jury, indicted and have the charges handled in Circuit Court. Again, you will be arraigned, motions will be filed, your lawyer will obtain evidence from the State that favors you and negotiate with prosecutors, but you must decide whether to go trial and let a jury decide guilt or innocence or accept a plea. If you plead or are found guilty, depending on the offense, you face jail time, fines and more.
Regardless, the criminal process is complicated and confusing. If you are arrested or charged with any crime or criminal offense, you have certain rights. You do not have to face the criminal justice system alone. If you have questions or charged with a crime, contact Attorney Perry A. Craft. He will offer practical advice and will fight for you.
Perry A. Craft has dedicated his life to helping people in need. He has tried, settled, or resolved numerous civil and criminal cases in State and Federal courts, and has represented teachers and administrators before school boards, administrative judges, and the state Board of Education. Learn more about Attorney Craft.