I frequently meet clients who are expecting to be arrested in the near future. This past weekend, I met with a client who was questioned by their employer about some money that was missing. The client admitted to me that they had stolen some checks that have been written to their employer. The client informed me that their employer told them that they had notified the police and the client came to my office asking what they should do when they are arrested. This is a pretty common scenario in my practice. I frequently meet with clients who know that they are in trouble and that the day is coming that they will be arrested and be charged with a crime. Here’s what I told this client, and other clients, who want to know what will happen.
It is important to know that you are under no legal obligation to cooperate with the police when they want to question you about a potential crime that you may have committed. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives you the right to not incriminate yourself. This means that you have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions that the police ask you about any crime that you may have committed. Probably the most common mistake that clients make when the police arrest them or question them about a possible crime is that clients think that they can talk themselves out of getting arrested and being charged with a crime. If you did nothing, then I suppose it makes sense to talk to the police. But if you know that you did something wrong and committed a crime, there is no logical explanation for talking to the police. If you know that you committed a crime and you are talking to the police, you will either tell them the truth, or you will lie to them. In either case, talking to the police when you know that you are guilty of a crime is not a smart move. Even if you believe you did nothing wrong, talking to the police and answering their questions is probably not a smart move either. You have no idea what information the police have. They may have incorrect information and by answering their questions, you may be giving their incorrect information more credibility than it deserves. The point of this paragraph is to advise you that if the police start asking you questions about a possible crime, you should immediately demand that they get you a lawyer.
Another common misunderstanding is that the police have to “read you your rights” once you are arrested. The only time the police have to “read you your rights” is when you are being questioned by the police and are you in the custody of the police and are not free to leave. A common example of this scenario is when you are placed under arrest and are taken down to the police station and the police put you in an interrogation room and start questioning you about a crime. In order for the police to be able to use any statements you make in that custodial interrogation, the police have to “read you your rights.” This means that the police have to inform you that you have the right to remain silent and that anything you say can and will be used against you in a Court of law. They also have to advise you that you have the right to a lawyer and that if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you for free. Once you make a knowing and intelligent waiver of those rights, the police can question you and any statements you make during the course of the questioning can be used against you in Court. But there is no requirement that the police have to read you your rights once you are arrested.