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A client came to me the other day and told me, in his words, that his life was over because he was arrested. I simply told him that everyone he knows, every friend that won’t return his calls, and every one of his family members has committed a crime at one time or another. Whether they were arrested is another question, but when it comes to breaking the law, I have yet to meet a person so pure of heart that they haven’t done at least one illegal thing in their life. This put him a little bit at ease as he realized those “friends” dropped out only because it reinforced their personal belief that they are a better person than the average person. Guess what? They aren’t.

That being said, in my line of work, 90% or so of my clients aren’t exactly “experienced” when it comes to being arrested. They are what I call “one and done” as opposed to a “frequent flyer.” This blog post is for the “one and dones” that aren’t sure what happens when someone gets arrested, what they should do, who they should call, etc. You may notice that there is a blunt, repeated message throughout this post… shut your mouth.

When you are being investigated for a crime, whether it’s an Assault in the 3rd Degree, or Petit/Grand Larceny, or ‘gasp!’ a sex crime, your rights are the same no matter what the police are looking at you for. We live in a society where the system is supposed to be the same no matter who you are and what you did or didn’t do. Sure, the commenters in the newspaper will have more to say if you’re alleged to have committed a serious crime, but guess what… they won’t be on the jury and they sure as heck aren’t going to be the judge. I’d like to say those commenters aren’t the police either, but I’ve met hundreds of police officers over the years and some of them are. While 98% are just as normal as any civilian, there’s a few who carry an unwarranted superiority complex that they can’t let down even when they get home. Those are the ones who usually make the headlines for something going bad. In any event that’s going to bring us to lesson one:

 

  1. Shut up.

That’s right! It’s as simple as that. Don’t open your mouth. If you want to feel sophisticated, you can assert your 5th Amendment right or say, “I want a lawyer.” Bottom line, the police aren’t speaking with you because they want to hang out with you later this week, they are speaking to you because they think you will give them the information they need to put the cuffs on you. Right now, you’re thinking one of two things. A) I can talk my way out of anything, I’m good with people, or B) I didn’t do anything wrong, what do I have to hide.

Here are your answers:

1A.      No, you can’t talk your way out of anything and you aren’t nearly as good with people as you think you are. Simply being with the police at this stage proves this. Keep in mind, a good investigator has done thousands of interrogations, taken classes on how to elicit confessions, and been trained by other detectives on how to get you to admit guilt. Heck, they might even be so good that you admit to something that you literally could not have done… which brings us to “B”.

1B.       Just keep your mouth closed, even if you have nothing to hide. If you really have nothing to hide, let your attorney know that and he can relay the message for you. Like previously noted, the police are talking to you because they think you hold a piece of evidence that lies between them and an arrest. Speaking up may give them the missing link and it may be your arrest! Sometimes people think because they weren’t given a Miranda warning, then the police can’t use their words against them. Not true! Without getting into great detail, your Miranda rights generally do not apply until you are arrested or in custody.

 

  1. The Arrest.

Well, if you didn’t say anything and you were still arrested, they were planning on arresting you anyway. They were just hoping for a confession so their case would be a slam dunk. If you did speak with them and they arrested you, well… you should have paid more attention to number one (Shut up). Either way, this is where the case becomes pretty uniform no matter what you are charged with. The arresting officer will usually place handcuffs on you and place you in the back of the car.

THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO GET ANGRY, ESPECIALLY AT THE OFFICER (OR EVEN THE POLICE CAR)

Don’t make the situation worse by adding on a Resisting Arrest charge or felony Assault 2nd for trying to hit the cop. Just go gently and keep your mouth shut (see #1). At this point, nearly everything you say or do is being recorded. Be aware that your pretty face will be on a TV screen should your case go to trial. Simply advise whatever officer that is speaking to you that you want a lawyer immediately. Many will give you the chance to call your lawyer after you’ve gotten the silver bracelets on. Take advantage of this. Call your lawyer, whether it’s me or someone else. (Shameless plug, you can always call the Kokosa Law Firm at (518) 907-4694 or text us at (518) 466-3062)).

The officer will generally sit you down somewhere and cuff you to an immovable object. Don’t try to pull your wrist away from the object because it will hurt. They know that the church pew you are sitting in is not going to move, that’s why they handcuffed you to it. When the officer is ready (which could mean 20 minutes or 2 hours) he will ask you intake and biographical questions. These you are required to answer. They have nothing to do with the arrest or crime and only have to do with your identity, generally.

 

  1. Don’t give a fake name.

After they take your biographical information, you’re going to be fingerprinted. FYI, this isn’t 1975 where they use ink and roll your fingers. Everything is electronically scanned and sent to the NY Division of Criminal Justice Services where, if your prints are on file, your rap sheet will come back in about 15 minutes. So, if you think you’re going to be smart and give a fake name, they will know before you are done being processed. Oh, and you just tacked on a new charge—False Personation. If you sign the fake name, you’ll also get a Forgery charge and Offering a False Instrument for Filing charge.

 

  1. The Arraignment.

This is where some cases diverge from others. If you are arrested for a small crime like Petit Larceny or Shoplifting or even violations such as Disorderly Conduct or Harassment 2nd, the police officer has a multitude of options of how he can treat you. If you have little to no criminal record, and you were quiet, respectful, and calm, they will usually release you with an appearance ticket. An appearance ticket is just that, a summons to appear in court on a later date. They may also give you what is called sergeant’s bail, which is usually $500 cash bail that they will take at the station. This will come with a notice to appear in court on a later date. If you are ornery, or charged with a D, C, B, or A Felony though, get ready to be tucked in for the night. Outside extenuating circumstances, the police can hold you for about 24 hours before you must be arraigned. This means that if it’s after 4 p.m., you’re going to jail for the night and you will be arraigned in the morning. It also means that they could ask a judge to leave his or her house and come arraign you at that moment. As you can guess, the judge is normally not thrilled with a middle of night arraignment so don’t be shocked when he sets bail at $5,000 over $10,000.

$5000 over $10,000 means that you can post $5000 cash or $10,000 bond (which will cost a little under $1000, but you don’t get the money back). If you need a bail bondsman, give us a call… we know a few. If you cannot make bail, you will be brought to the county correctional facility where you will wait during the pendency of your case or until you make bail. This system may be cruel, but it is the system. Arguing about it at this point is futile; you should have written your senator sooner.

In any event, you will have been given several opportunities to call an attorney along the way. You could have called us or you could have called that guy your uncle knows. He’s probably pretty good too. Either option is better than not speaking with an attorney. However, if you are locked up on bail, the good news is that you’re eligible to get a free attorney because you are now a ward of the State and automatically qualify for the public defender… which brings us to number 5.

 

  1. The Public Defenders know what they are doing!

Every once in a while I get to hear someone say, “Public Pretender” or “I don’t want a PD, I want a real attorney.” Just so you know, this makes you a jerk. Some of the best attorneys I’ve ever met were public defenders. Some could juggle 35 felonies and a stack of misdemeanors at the same time without breaking a sweat. Just because they work for the public defender’s office doesn’t make them any less qualified to handle your case. Their only downside is something they have no control over… a lack of funding. This means too many public defenders are overworked and underpaid, resulting in less time and attention being paid to any one specific case. In the long run, though, public defenders are like any other attorneys. Some are better than others; some are better with certain types of cases than others. If you don’t like their bedside manner, just remember you aren’t paying.

 

  1. Call the Kokosa Law Firm as soon as possible.

We already gave you the phone number, above. We know what we are doing. Everyone wants to know what it will cost up front. We can’t tell you that during a two minute phone call which is why we invite anyone who has been arrested to come meet with us in person. We don’t charge for a criminal consultation. If you’re still wondering about price, compared to other attorneys we usually land somewhere in the middle. We offer flat fee pricing on criminal matters which usually works better for clients since they know what the total amounts are going to be and don’t have to worry about monthly bills. Heck, we even take credit cards (even Discover as I found out recently.)

More importantly, we actually do care about you and your well-being. My wife thinks that I have trouble disassociating myself from the crimes my clients are alleged to have committed. I’m not even sure what that means, but my job is to bear some of the weight that has fallen on your shoulders, so maybe she is right. But you know what, this is the only way I know that I am giving my client everything I’ve got so I’m going to keep doing it this way even if it means midnight phone calls and 5 a.m. texts.

 

  1. What you are experiencing… it won’t always feel like this.

The case will end at some point. You will be guilty, not guilty, or plea to something in the middle. The stress will slowly subside and you will readjust to a normal life (though your new “normal” may be somewhat different. Here’s where you get to make the decisions that will determine whether you are “one and done” or a “frequent flyer.” Like I said, most clients are one and done because they make the life adjustments that they need to move on with life in a productive manner. And while you can’t get rid of your family, remember those “friends” that dropped out at the first sign of trouble… don’t ever forget that. You can now become the person they pretend to be.

As always, my blog posts are for discussion only and are not intended to be legal advice for any specific person or event. You have to call me for that.