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If you have been arrested, there are several things that you should know about the process. What you do in the hours and days after you are arrested can mean all of the difference in being convicted and going free. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, there are certain steps that you can take to ensure that this arrest does not ruin your life.
When You are Arrested
If the police take you into custody and accuse you of a crime, it is safe to assume that you are under arrest. There are several rights that you have when you have been arrested. First, you have a right to remain silent. Do not waive this right. Talking to the police will not cause them to let you go. If you have been arrested, they are going to detain you no matter what you say. It is best to say nothing at all. Never admit to any crime or give any information. If you want to provide your name and other basic information, that is fine, but never admit to any crime, even if you are caught red-handed.
Secondly, you have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. Your attorney will advise you of what you may discuss with the police if you choose. While you are detained, do not make statements to anyone involved in the process—social workers, jail staff or anyone else. Don’t even discuss your crime with other people who are under arrest. If you make phone calls from the police precinct or the jail, remember that these calls are recorded and can be used against you in court. Simply remain silent.
Remember that if you waive your rights and start to answer questions from the police, you have the right to exert these rights again at any time. If you start talking then decide you want an attorney, you can always invoke your right to remain silent or to have an attorney present during questioning.
Getting Bail After an Arrest
When you are arrested, you will likely be taken into custody and processed into the “system.” This process can take a few hours or a few days, depending on your jurisdiction. If you are arrested over the weekend, the process may take longer and you will remain in jail until you see the judge. It is during this time that you will talk to your attorney about your case and start to work on a strategy to keep you from having to stay in jail while awaiting your trial.
At the end of the booking process, you will see the judge at a hearing called an arraignment. At this hearing, the judge will explain to you what crime you are being charged with and your attorney will enter a plea on your behalf. During this hearing, the prosecutor will also recommend that you either be held without bail, released on bail or released on your own recognizance. The best possible outcome is to be released on your own recognizance with your promise to appear at the next hearing. If you are forced to make bail, your attorney will work with your family to make sure the process goes quickly.
Felony vs. Misdemeanor Charges
Knowing your exact charges will make all of the difference in your defense and how aggressively your attorney will have to fight your case. In some cases, the same crime can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor and the penalties for these are drastically different. Misdemeanors are often punished by short jail sentences of one year or less or heavy fines. Felonies often carry longer prison terms that can affect your future earnings.
In some cases, charges can be knocked down from felonies to misdemeanors. On the other hand, a charge can be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony before you go to trial. If, for example, you get into a fight and the other person later dies, your charge can go from a misdemeanor assault charge to a felony manslaughter charge. It is important to have a competent and experienced attorney on your side to make sure you get the best outcome possible for your case.
If you have been arrested, call us for a free consultation today.