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What to do when you’ve been arrested

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Hopefully, you’ll never have to find out what it’s like to be arrested. If the moment does arise, however, it is important to know about what you have a right to do upon arrest.

First of all, it is important to know whether you are actually being arrested, rather than just being questioned by police, as your rights will change at the moment you’re officially in custody. When your liberty is confined such that you have lost the freedom to leave, then you may be considered in police custody. If you haven’t been arrested, but are unsure of where the officer’s questions are leading, you might want to ask, “Am I free to go?” If the officer says yes, then you can leave. Things you say to a police officer before arrest can be used as evidence against you at trial, so the less you say, the better.

Once you’ve been placed under arrest, stay calm. Resisting, assaulting or verbally abusing an officer will do you no good, even when you think you’re being arrested for an illegitimate reason. Once in custody, you should be read your Miranda warning, which you’ve probably heard on television cop dramas countless times before. You have a right to remain silent, because anything you say can and will be used against you; you have the right to speak to an attorney during any questioning, and if you can’t afford your own attorney, one will be provided to you by the state of Mississippi. The Miranda warning is a legally-required reminder of your right not to make any self-incriminating statements—statements that could make you appear guilty of a crime. If you are not read your Miranda rights after you’ve come under police custody, the police cannot use any of the statements you make after arrest as evidence.

Take careful note of everyone you speak to and what they say to you in the time leading up to and after your arrest, as well as anything you may have said to the police, to later share with your attorney. It’s important for your lawyer to know what the police said or did, who might be important to call as a witness at trial, whether they violated any laws during the arrest process, and what evidence you might have given them which your attorney will later need to address.

If you’re questioned after your arrest, a smart idea would be to ask for an attorney to be present right away, and to make it clear that you will not be answering any questions without him or her present. You may think you know best what to say to the police, that you’re smart enough not to be tricked by any of their tactics to get you to confess (such as telling you your friend already confessed or implicated you, or that they’ve got an airtight witness who places you at the scene of the crime, so the sooner you just confess the better things will go for you). Just remember this: while you can do enormous damage to your case by talking, you can do no harm by keeping your mouth shut or repeating that you want your lawyer present.

If you’ve been arrested in the state of Mississippi, don’t rely on an overloaded public defender to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact our experienced, dedicated Jackson criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible after an arrest. Call the Hancock Law Firm, PLLC at (601) 853-2223.

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