The Practical Guide on What to Do When Getting Arrested
Wisconsin Laws To Know When Getting Pulled Over or Arrested
Once detained or pulled over, you no longer have control over what is in your possession or what situation the police officers have encountered. What you can control is your behavior. The manner in which you conduct yourself in the presence of the police will impact your case – with potentially life altering consequences.
Not a memorizer? Print this card and keep it in your wallet:
You Are Only Guilty If You Are Convicted ®
Tip from a Former State Prosecutor who founded a Milwaukee Criminal Defense Law Firm
Our criminal defense law firm offers insight on the Do’s and Don’ts of interacting with law enforcement when getting pulled over, detained, or arrested in Wisconsin - or even just interacting with police officers:
DON’T give any details.
Police officers have been in this situation much more often than you have. They know how to steer the situation and draw information out of you, even subtly implying an authority they might not have. Cops often behave like political pundits – hammering their interviewee (detainee) with questions that have no reasonable answer “Do you support the amendment or do you support the terrorists? JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION.” Your natural instinct is to answer yourself into a corner. Sometimes the only way to win is not to play.
The less you say, the better. You can answer identity questions politely (a smile doesn’t hurt), but you are not obligated to give details of any sort. BEWARE: it is a natural human reaction to be nervous when responding to the questions from law enforcement officers. Most people speak too much when nervous, often not fully thinking through each answer given. Remaining silent is not only within your legal rights, it is strongly recommended for the benefit of your case.
DO ask to speak to your attorney.
“I would like to speak to an attorney” is not an admission of guilt. Requesting your attorney is a polite signal to the officers that you no longer wish to be questioned. Once you have asked to speak to an attorney, stick to this statement and do not continue to answer a line of questioning, even if it is becoming increasingly aggressive.
DON’T give consent to a search of any kind.
Every practicing criminal defense attorney has likely seen numerous scenarios where a client was charged with evidence found in a search they never should have consented to. If a police officer requests permission to look through your phone, car, wallet, purse – anything at all – politely decline. If the police officer performs the search without a warrant or your consent, and have not gone through the proper steps of the legal system, they do not have authority to use their findings in court. Again, do NOT give consent to allow any of your belongings be scrutinized. Even if you think you have nothing to hide, there could be a mix-up that works tragically against you. It’s not unheard of for someone to be detained further while substances are examined based on probable cause (an old crushed Tylenol capsule could be suspected of containing methamphetamines). Worse, what if the police officer finds something you didn’t even know was in your bag, vehicle, or phone? Get more information on refusing consent to a search.
DON’T be rude. DO be polite.
Smiling, even when unnatural to do so, is a great way to help yourself remain calm. There is a good chance your interaction is being recorded, especially if you were pulled over. Being rude or belligerent to those in law enforcement will never benefit your case in any way, shape, or form. Politely answer basic questions, yet respectfully decline to answer personal questions. Should you be detained or interviewed in a criminal investigation – regardless of your innocence – the best opportunity to ensure you remain free or not charged or convicted, is to say nothing to police officers, detectives, or investigators without your criminal defense attorney present.
DON’T resist arrest.
Resisting arrest puts you in a bad spot. It will bring about an additional charge(s) following your eventual capture. Contrary to what might be storming through your head at the time, there is always hope with a skilled criminal defense attorney. No matter how bleak the situation seems, minimize the damage by cooperating with the arrest and not explaining yourself to an officer. You are not going to talk your way out of the hole you are in. Again, stating that you would like to speak to an attorney is your best option.
DON’T make friends with your cellmates.
Prosecutors will frequently speak to your cellmates and sometimes offer them incentives for information you have leaked while in custody. Your fellow cellmates might seem to be your friends and attempt to form a bond over being caught in a similar situation. Resist the urge to conversationally exchange information about what led to your detainment. If your case is brought before a judge or jury, the effects of this information leak could be devastating.
DO embrace the criminal defense services of an attorney: Your freedom depends on it!
The 5th Amendment gives you the right to remain silent at no fault to your innocence. The 6th amendment of our U.S. Constitution then grants you the right to an attorney. Take advantage of both by having an attorney represent you to have charges reduced or dismissed.
Remember, you are only guilty if you are convicted. Contact our criminal defense law firm now for free initial consultation.
Convicted in Waukesha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine county or the surrounding Wisconsin communities? Call Tom Grieve.