Confusion, trauma, fear, and outrage can grip us when police take a friend or loved one into custody. Whether the circumstances are clear or not, the idea of freedom lost for someone close is disturbing at least. Yet to be of help to arrested individuals, it is best to have a clear strategy, i.e. a series of actions to take on their behalf. These range from long-term aims for successful legal defense to the more immediate goal of achieving release from confinement by law enforcement. Here are six things to do when a relative or friend gets arrested.
#1: Take a Breath
Often, the first reaction to the news that a dear one is under arrest is panic. This helps no one. Whether you have detailed information or a few sketchy reports, your own emotional stability may be the only asset your friend or family member has. So, the first order of business is to keep calm. You should make sure that you yourself are not subject to arrest. What is the nature of the relationship? Are you in business with the detained person? Were you aware of any criminal activity? You can only help if you are free and clear of suspicion.
#2: Get the Details
Information gathering is essential. If you are present during the arrest, ask the officers — while remaining civil — about the charges and the location to which they are taking your friend. Should the individual call you post-arrest, obtain as many facts as you can relative to reasons, conditions, and any statements they make to the police. It is also a good idea to advise the arrestee to maintain silence about the charges until an attorney is available to assist. This right is guaranteed under the Constitution.
#3: Get Legal Counsel
Calling a lawyer, preferably one with criminal defense experience, is crucial at this point. Let the attorney know the facts as you have learned them, including the number assigned to the arrest and the police precinct location. Make sure you have a plan in place to compensate the lawyer.
#4: Get to the Arraignment
The arraignment is your friend’s initial contact with the court. A judge will receive the charges as read by the prosecuting attorney. If a private attorney is unaffordable, the judge assigns a public defender to the case. Importantly, the judge decides whether the arrestee should remain detained pending trial. The court may set bail — a financial deposit that provides some assurance that a released defendant will return to stand trial.
#5: Get a Bail Bondsman
Often, the amount of bail exceeds the defendant’s financial capacity. A bail bond service provides the insurance the court needs to release your friend from custody, and you should look in your local area to find a reputable bail service to use.
#6: Get Out of the Way
With an attorney at hand, your best path is to be supportive while letting the legal process unfold. Unless you have legal experience, let the professionals handle the case and focus on supporting the person in any way possible.