An arrest is a stressful experience. It can happen quickly before you even know it. Police officers don't waste time. If they have what they need to make an arrest (e.g. a warrant or probable cause), they will take action immediately. Then you're put into the squad car and taken into the station for booking. Suddenly you are facing a reality you weren't ready for and fearful for what happens next. If you're like most people, your first arrest can be a traumatizing experience and one that you'll want to move on from as soon as possible. But before you plead guilty just to get back to your normal life, here's what you need to know.
Don't Jump to Conclusions
An arrest doesn't mean you're guilty. Police arrest the wrong people every day. Even if you think you are guilty, don't assume you understand California criminal law that well. The prosecuting attorney must prove every element of the crime you are being charged with beyond a reasonable doubt; it's not an easy standard to meet.
Protect Your Rights
Remain silent, and don't give in to questioning. No matter what the police officer tells you, do not provide any information that can be used against you. You have a right to remain silent, so exercise that right to the fullest extent.
Make Your Phone Call
Call an attorney. An attorney is your quickest route to getting released from jail. Also, don't try to DIY your defense. The courts don't appreciate it, and most pro se defendants regret it. It's best to invest in a criminal defense attorney because many California convictions come with steep fines with additional penalty assessments. Depending on your charge, you could face numerous other costs, not to mention the cost of a criminal record. Don't make a decision you'll regret.
You're not alone. A lot of people have been arrested but never talk about it. Don't feel guilty or like you deserve punishment. You still have rights, and you should learn about those rights before you forfeit them. People make mistakes, and some even make it out with an unblemished criminal record. Don't be too hard on yourself, and try to stay optimistic. A good attitude can go a long way when facing criminal charges.
Remember What Happened
Take notes. Try to take notes about the incident as soon as you are able. You might remember a small detail that your attorney could leverage for a dismissal. Or you could remember a particular witness who can clear your name. Write down everything that happened, and give that information to your attorney. Your attorney will know how to comb through that information to find potential defenses. Maybe you were arrested for a DUI but hadn't had much to drink. An attorney can challenge any BAC test results. Or maybe you were arrested for domestic violence but were, in fact, the victim. An attorney might be able to track down a witness you remember that can attest to that fact.
Criminal cases don't always resolve quickly. In fact, it's better to take your time and think about your options than to make a split second decision to resolve your case. Talk to an attorney about the best course of action. That may be posting bail and returning to your family so you can discuss how you want to handle your case. Or it may mean pleading not guilty and setting your case for trial so you can delve into the evidence. Whatever you do, do not make any hasty decisions.
Stay out of trouble. It goes without saying you should avoid criminal activity while your case is pending after an arrest. Also, don't resist or evade arrest or be rude or derogatory toward your arresting officer. Now is not the time to fight; save it for court. If you were arrested for a drug or alcohol-related offense, take this as an opportunity to get sober. If you were arrested for domestic violence, stay away from the victim! Keep your head down until your attorney gives you more guidance.
Being arrested and accused of a crime is stressful, but attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team can help. Experienced in criminal defense, our Visalia area legal team can advocate on your behalf in court and aggressively fight your charges. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense working in Tulare, Fresno, and Kings County and won't be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.