What should I do if I’m arrested in South Florida?: Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney shares
It may sound like we're dodging the question - but really the best thing you can do is call a criminal lawyer.
Being arrested is a difficult and emotionally jarring time.
You’re probably not going to be thinking straight, and you need someone who will not only think strategically on your behalf, but also someone who knows the ins-and-outs of the legal system to make sure that ALL of your rights are protected. You need an attorney who will know your rights & how to protect them as well as someone who will defend you and your future.
A good criminal or DUI attorney will make sure that happens.
One of the MOST IMPORTANT REASONS you'll want to start looking for a South Florida Criminal Defense lawyer right away:
- When you're arrested, and even after you make your first court appearance (usually called first-appearance court or magistrate court), you still have about 30-40 days until the charges against you are OFFICIALLY filed by the state prosecutor.
- Effectively, this means your criminal or DUI charges are not FINALIZED yet at the time or your arrest.
- During that roughly one-month period, prosecutors do an investigation and work to see if the charges you're arrested on are the charges you think you should be charged with, or they can lower or increase the charges
- If you hire an attorney before the charges are filed by the prosecutor, there is a chance that the attorney could get your charges dropped or reduced before they are even filed -- which could even save you from having a criminal or felony record altogether!
You also want to get yourself out of jail as soon as possible after your arrest. Call a family member, or pay the bond to get yourself out. You don't want to sit in jail for long - for many reasons, but an important one being that the longer you're in jail, the longer police have to collect information about you, or try to get you to talk, etc. They also will likely record any phone calls you make and those can be used against you so be careful.
REMEMBER - you don't need to talk to police AT ALL without an attorney. You can just tell them you're invoking your 5th amendment right, which is your Miranda Right. This is a right afforded to you that gives you the right to remain silent. Even if police ask you questions - you DO NOT have to answer them.
This also goes for pre-arrest; if police call you and want to question you or say you're under investigation, you should not answer any questions and inform the officer that you're exercising your right to remain silent and will not talk to them without an attorney present.
Then, once you're out of jail, write down in as much detail as possible exactly what happened. Criminal cases can take up to 18 months depending on the seriousness of the case, and memories fade over time. It's important to write down everything you can remember - about the day, the police, what they said, what you said, the details of what happened, potential witnesses, etc.
You also want to write down a list of potential evidence and witnesses. Police officers often don’t conduct a thorough investigation. That’s why you want to give your lawyer as much information as possible so they can do an independent investigation.
He/she will want to speak with defense witnesses, take pictures of the crime scene, request 911 calls, and prepare your defense.