Tensions still remain high between many citizens and law enforcement. Weekly, there are news reports of violence between both sides, often ending with death. A recent study from the F.B.I. indicates that violence between American citizens is at a near 40 year low. The unfortunate converse is that violence between police and those they are sworn to protect is at an all time high. With many American communities offering outreach intended to educate youth, minorities, and the homeless on how to best interact with law enforcement, it is becoming evident that all citizens would benefit from the same knowledge. Knowing our rights can not only keep individuals out of jail, but also possibly prevent escalation that often leads to violence. Though complicated and often scary, being stopped, questioned, or investigated by the police can be better navigated once a person is empowered.
The first item to consider is the individual’s right to remain silent. The fact of the matter is that no police officer can officially charge one with a crime; he or she can just present information and recommendations for the prosecutor. Only a prosecutor can charge a suspect with a crime. Invoking the right to silence and requesting a lawyer can prevent any number of miscommunications or later misrepresentations. Frequently, an individual is told he or she will be taken to jail to be questioned, other people involved have already provided information, that not speaking will result in a resisting arrest charge, or any number of similar threats. None of these are requirements to speak. It is important to note that if an individual does request an attorney, that person may be taken to the police station and have to wait for a public defender to become available.
It is further important to note the types of official police encounters one may experience essentially boil down to: a conversation, a detention, and an arrest. Beyond executing the right to be silent it is also important (an should be no-brainer) to speak politely and professionally if electing to speak. While tensions and emotions may be running high, the more calm and collected a person remains, the less likely a conflict will emerge. Furthermore, if at least one party takes efforts to deescalate the situation, the likelihood of continued aggression decreases.
If a person is arrested, it is essential to remember the roles of officer and prosecutor, as highlighted earlier. The officer may arrest someone for a litany of charges, but the prosecutor may only indict on one, a few, or ultimately decide there is insufficient evidence and offer no charges at all. With this in mind, the best protection a person has is to contact a bail bonds agency (like the friendly writers of this article). Generally, once out of jail, the court appearance is pushed back to allow a defendant time to attain legal counsel and prepare a defense. What’s more, there is also a greater chance of the case being dismissed or discredited. The converse of this is while a person waits in jail, the likelihood of being forced by circumstance to agree to a plea deal increases, as jobs and other responsibilities languish. Many inmates will plea to lesser charges, even if innocent, just to get out of jail and salvage what remains of their lives.
The act of getting a bail bondsman is not the only way, as a person can pay entire bail amount or legal counsel can make arrangements for a defendant they represent. However, paying a bondsman is almost always less expensive than attaining legal representation. Sometimes, given the chance that the prosecutor may drop or refuse to file charges, a lawyer will prove wholly unnecessary. In any case, it is imperative for Americans to remain safe, informed, and in charge of their constitutional rights; such as the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to bail and due process. Knowing our rights, how to defend them, and what to do when arrested, can help save a job, a family, or a life.
DISCLAIMER: No portion of this blog is intended or to be used as a substitute for legal counsel.
September 25, 2015 / Ryan Serey