Being arrested for a crime is frightening and confusing. The problem is that from the second the arrest begins, everything you say and do matters. It’s important that you understand your rights, as well as common misconceptions about criminal arrests.
1. I’ll just explain to police and they’ll let me go.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” We’ve heard it repeated ad nauseam in police shows and movies over the years. Why do so many people fail to remain silent during an arrest?
One of the top misconceptions about criminal arrests is that people think that if they simply explain to the arresting officer what happened, police will understand and let them go. This results in you giving police a flood of information in the heat of the moment. You’re frightened and emotional. You’re not thinking straight. You don’t have an attorney present. All of this means that you’ll likely give police information that will come back to haunt you in court later. Instead, remain silent and call an attorney.
2. I did it, so I should simply plead guilty.
Another one of the pitfalls and misconceptions about criminal arrests is assuming that if you did commit a crime, you should simply plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of the court. However, the entire point of a guilty plea isn’t to simply say, “I did it! Now punish me!” — it’s to negotiate a more lenient sentence. This is another area where you will benefit from remaining silent and letting your attorney negotiate the legal system in order to get the best possible outcome for you.
3. I have no prior convictions, so the court will go easy on me.
This falls somewhat into the category of the previous misconception. “I’m guilty, but I have a clean record, so they won’t give me the stiffest penalty.”
Maybe you’ll get off quite easy because the judge sees that you’re gainfully employed with a spouse, two kids, and a dog. However, you’d be surprised. You may receive a sentence that’s more than a repeat offender would face. Sometimes a court will dole out a harsh penalty simply to discourage someone from re-offending. Sentencing can seem incredibly random; another reason it’s important to have excellent legal help on your side.
4. No one needs to know about my arrest.
They might not need to know, but if they read the local paper, watch the news, or do a bit of Googling, they’ll likely run across it. Many police stations provide arrest information to the local newspaper, which means that if someone who knows you opens up the paper, they run a good chance of seeing your name along with the details of your arrest. The local news may run a story, as well — particularly if it’s a slow news day or if your arrest was a particularly interesting one.
Of course, these days, everything is online, so all of the above will likely end up on people’s computer screens, as well. If an employer or a nosy friend or neighbor runs a background check, your criminal arrest information will show up as part of that, as well.
5. My life is over.
The good news is that an arrest doesn’t mean guilt. If you are innocent or have an attorney who can help discredit faulty evidence or misleading witness testimony, you may be able to put the case behind you with no punishment.
The bad news is that guilty or innocent, an arrest looks bad on your record. It’s not the end of the world, however. No matter the outcome of your case, a skilled attorney can help you expunge your record later and clean things up so you can move on with your life.
If you have been arrested and accused of a crime, Cleveland felony attorney Matthew C. Bangerter, ESQ. can help. Click here for an initial consultation or call (440) 241-4237 to start planning your defense.