An arrest can be an overwhelming event. It can be difficult to know what to do in a confusing situation, outnumbered by police and facing a system that's seemingly stacked against you. If you, a family member, or loved one has been arrested, it is important to contact a Birmingham criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The earlier your attorney gets involved, the greater your chances of avoiding common pitfalls such as self-incrimination.
Invoke Your Right to Silence
Defendants have a constitutional right against self-incrimination. This means once you are placed under arrest, you do not have to answer questions about the alleged offense. It's important to still be as polite and respectful as possible to all law enforcement officers and civilian personnel. Follow simple directions about where to go, having your fingerprints taken, etc. But being polite need not extend to compromising your best interests. Decline to answer any questions about the incident until your defense attorney is present - and make this desire crystal clear to police.
Now, more than ever, it is crucial that a suspect's request for a lawyer be stated as plainly as possible. In Louisiana, the state Supreme Court recently ruled that a suspect’s request was not clear, and his incriminating statements were therefore admissible evidence against him. In that case, he had asked for a “lawyer, dog." Obviously, "dog" is a slang term for a man, similar to "dude." Yet the Washington Post reports that subsequent appeals focused on whether the suspect had asked for “a lawyer, dog” or an actual, non-existent canine lawyer. The Louisiana Supreme Court eventually determined that the request for counsel was ambiguous and therefore insufficient to suppress the statements he later made. The incriminating statements will likely have a significant impact on the serious charge he faces: rape of a juvenile. While this particular case was decided under Louisiana state law, rather than Alabama law, it nonetheless illustrates that any request for counsel be made as clearly and unambiguously as possible.
Further, self-incrimination can be avoided by not assuming social media is a safe space to discuss the event, even if you avoid arrest initially. AL.com recently reported on a case involving a teen who was reportedly upset that a retail clerk wouldn't process a refund transaction, and responded by reaching across the counter and allegedly assaulting the clerk. An associated of the suspect filmed the encounter with his cell phone. Suspect then uploaded the film to Facebook. Using this as evidence, he was subsequently arrested.
If you are arrested, it's imperative you stay calm. One Alabama woman’s panic at a Driver’s License Examining Office in Birmingham severely complicated her legal situation. According to AL.com, the woman was attempting to obtain a driver’s license when workers discovered that she had an outstanding warrant. She was placed under arrest, but escaped the office and fled the scene in her car. Authorities were able to stop her car and arrest her again. This time, she was charged with escape, reckless endangerment, and attempting to elude. Her bond was set at a total of $16,000. This story illustrates the importance of not only clearing up old warrants, but also keeping your cool after an arrest. This woman’s panic led to three additional criminal charges and a much higher jail bond. If you are arrested, do not panic, and do not attempt to leave. Follow the directions of all law enforcement agents and contact an attorney as soon as possible.
An arrest can be a confusing, overwhelming situation. Unfortunately, this confusion causes many criminal defendants to inadvertently waive important constitutional rights which promote fairness in the criminal case process. By knowing what to do immediately after an arrest, and consulting with a Birmingham criminal defense attorney as soon as possible, a defendant can better protect these constitutional rights at every step of the process.