You have been pulled over, an investigation by the law enforcement officer has ensued, where you hopefully read our earlier advice to maintain silence and not incriminate yourself, and now the officer informs you that you are under arrest. It is an overwhelming moment, but one where staying calm and knowing what to do is important.
Our first piece of advice actually comes earlier, when the lights are flashing behind you and you must pull over. Turn on your turn signal or hazards and slow down, letting the officer know that you see them and that you are complying. However, you have the right to pull over in a safe place, one where oncoming traffic or geography is not a safety issue. Find a place where you can leave your car, ideally overnight or at least where it can stay until someone can come pick it up. If you are arrested, your car will be impounded. Impound fees can run in the hundreds, even for just one night. In addition, if your car is impounded an “inventory search” will take place which can frequently lead to additional charges filed against you. While it is nerve-racking to get pulled over, maintain awareness and find a safe place to leave your car. If you are then arrested, ask the officer if you can leave your key hidden, possibly in a wheel well, for family or friends to pick up the car or take the key and pick it up yourself after you are bailed out of jail.
Our entire lives are on our cell phones. Your cell phone should always be password protected, and recent court decisions say that the police cannot access the contents of your cell phone without a warrant except under very limited circumstances. Therefore, do not agree to have an officer “search” your cell phone- this is potentially agreeing to provide incriminating evidence against yourself. As we have discussed, you have an ABSOLUTE right not to incriminate yourself. However, the dominance of cell phones in our lives has made it so that many of us no longer know other people’s numbers by memory. Due to that modern fact, if an officer is going to place you under arrest politely ask to write down one or two emergency contacts from your cell phone if you do not know them by heart and then leave it in your car. Explain to the officer that you do not know the numbers by memory, be respectful and calm. The officer may watch to ensure that you are not destroying evidence, which is permissible, and you now have the ability to call people for assistance.
If the arrest is for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a chemical test comes next, either of blood at a hospital or of breath at the police station. Once the chemical test is conducted, you will be booked into the jail. This “processing” can sometimes take hours, so stay calm and settle in for the long haul. You will not be allowed to make your telephone call until after being booked and processed and usually spending time in an uncomfortable concrete and metal cell. If you are able to request and get a blanket, do so- the cells tend to be very cold. The criminal justice process is meant to punish and deter, it is not supposed to be nice so don’t be surprised if you are stuck in that cold cell for several hours or overnight before being able to make a call. Meanwhile, do not discuss your case with anyone, period. Do not try to explain, do not argue, do not get mad. Save your energy and discuss all the issues with your attorney as soon as you bail out. The less you say, the stronger your defense. Contact our expert criminal law group, Feldmann Nagel Margulis for more information or to assist you in your defense, at 1-(888) 458-0991.