In this final installment of our series on staying safe during police interactions, we are covering how to keep a bad situation from getting worse following an arrest. Arrests often cause stress and confusion, particularly if it’s your first time. Simple mistakes can make your case much harder to defend in court. In this article, we lay out some common mistakes people make after being arrested and how to avoid them.
Talking to the Police
You should never talk to the police without a lawyer present. Frankly, it’s usually better to not speak to them at all if you’ve been arrested. This advice is a common theme throughout this series for a reason. Talking to the police is the quickest way to help them build a case against you. If you’re going to speak at all, it’s better to have an attorney set the terms of your statement. An attorney can negotiate for your statements to be excluded from evidence against you, or even obtain a more favorable settlement offer for your cooperation. Remember, you have the right to remain silent, and it’s usually in your best interest to do so. The state can use anything you say against you in court, so wait for your attorney before saying anything other than your name.
Avoid arguing with the police, even if you think they are violating the law. You are not going to change their minds. They are not going to listen to your legal arguments, no matter how well-reasoned they are. At best you’ll be wasting your energy. Most likely, you’ll be giving them something that they could use as the basis for charging you with resisting arrest or obstruction. At worst you’ll put yourself in danger of physical harm. You should focus your attention on memorizing as many details of the arrest as you can. This will help your lawyer if they ultimately decide to challenge the legality of the arrest in court.
Waiving Your Rights or Not Knowing About Them
Knowing your rights is crucial. You have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to a fair trial. You also have the right to refuse to participate in an investigation against you. This is true both before and after an arrest. Sometimes you will face consequences for refusing to perform some tasks or tests an officer requests, but in many cases it’s better to accept those consequences instead of helping the cops build a case against you. Step one is knowing your rights. Second, be confident about invoking those rights. Finally, be clear and concise about your intention to invoke your rights. For more details about your constitutional rights both before and after arrest, read Part 2 and Part 3 from earlier in this series.
Providing a False Name or Bogus Information During Arrest
It’s much better to remain silent than it is to lie to the police. Any statements you make out of court are admissible during a trial. False statements made during an investigation are often used by the state as proof of the speaker’s consciousness of guilt. Police frequently find evidence to contradict statements during an investigation. They then use the contradictory evidence in court to paint you as a dishonest person. More importantly, you are not allowed to admit your own past statements in court. So there is no benefit to lying to the police. It’s much better to keep your mouth shut because the state CANNOT TO USE YOUR DECISION TO REMAIN SILENT AGAINST YOU.
Even more detrimental is giving the cops a false name. Providing a fake name to law enforcement has two bad consequences. First, the police will document the fake name as an alias for you. Law enforcement view aliases (fake names) as indicators of past criminal behavior. This could increase the chance that police target you for investigation in the future, or could increase the chance you have a bad confrontation with the police.
Second, in Florida providing a fake name to law enforcement is itself a crime. Florida Statute 901.36 outlines the charge of giving the police a fake name. If the fake name causes harm to another person, the state can even charge you with a felony for it.
Remember, your silence can’t be evidence against you, but lies can and will be.
Posting on Social Media After Arrest
Social media is everywhere and used by almost everyone. Sharing details about your personal life carries inherent risks. Those risks are not worth taking if you are facing a criminal charge. We instruct our clients to avoid social media altogether following an arrest. This ensures our clients don’t say anything that comes back to bite them during the case. Unfortunately, any details you share about your arrest or the events leading to it on social media are admissions. The State will use them against you as if they were said directly to the police.
You can’t imagine the frustration of invoking your rights during an arrest, only to have later social media posts admitted as evidence in your trial. It’s best to keep your legal matters private, and speak only with your defense team about them. We tell our clients that any person not employed by our office is a potential witness against them, and to be sure that they don’t say anything to anyone the wouldn’t want repeated on the witness stand.
Speaking on Jail Phones or to Other Inmates
The State records and monitors all jail phone calls. Using the jail phones is risky. You should limit your phone calls to conversations that have nothing to do with the charges against you. Some reasonable uses for jail phones include checking in on friends and family, and contacting your attorney. Do not say anything incriminating on those calls; the prosecutors are listening.
Likewise, all of the other inmates are potential witnesses against you. Any statements overheard in jail can be used as evidence against you. There are plenty of motivations for people in custody to give the State information about other people facing charges. Our clients are instructed not to discuss their case or any past criminal activity to anyone in jail.
Arrests are scary and stressful experiences. Avoiding these common mistakes will give you the best chance of staying safe and successfully defending yourself in court. Remember to remain calm, invoke your rights, and seek the guidance of an attorney. Know your rights and make informed decisions to increase your chances of a more favorable outcome in your legal case.