If you’ve been arrested in New York, there are certain basics you should understand about the criminal justice system. Often times, people ask what they should do to help their case. Another important question is what NOT to do. Here, we discuss the mistakes you should avoid making while your criminal case is pending.
Don’t Talk to Police or Investigators
You have a constitutional right not to speak with law enforcement. As quoted often on television, anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. Too often, people think they can talk their way out of trouble. Most of time, talking to police will only cement the case against you. It could even lead to more criminal charges.
“No person … shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself[.]” ~United States Constitution, Fifth Amendment
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” ~United States Constitution, Sixth Amendment
You must affirmatively tell police you are invoking your right to remain silent. Say politely, “I choose to invoke my right to remain silent.” You should also tell police you would like to speak with an attorney. To do so, say to police, “I would like to speak with my attorney.”
Posting on Social Media or Discussing Your Case are Common Mistakes
You should also be aware that anything you say to anyone can be used against you. This includes what you post on social media. While investigators can only access private messages with a warrant or court order, anything shared publicly on the Internet is fair game. And nothing is stopping the person you’ve privately messaged from voluntarily sharing messages or texts with police.
Prosecutors can also subpoena witnesses who you may have discussed your case with. If you’ve made any inculpatory statements to your friends or family, that person may be compelled to testify against you. The only person you should discuss your case with is your attorney. And tell your attorney the truth – anything you say to your attorney is privileged. Withholding information or lying about something may hamper your attorney’s efforts to represent you effectively.
Other Mistakes: Getting Re-Arrested and Missing Court Dates
Getting re-arrested while your criminal case is pending is not a good idea. In some cases, the judge may set a condition of bail or release that you do not get re-arrested. If you get re-arrested, the judge could then set bail, increase your bail, or remand you to jail pending trial. Not only will a new arrest look bad to the judge, the prosecutor may be less inclined to offer you a plea deal to resolve your pending cases.
As to court appearances, make sure you don’t miss any. Arrive ahead of schedule, leaving yourself ample time in the event of traffic. And dress appropriately – while a suit isn’t always necessary, try to dress in a way that shows you have respect for the court. If you have to miss court, either for illness or some other emergency, contact your attorney as soon as possible. Be prepared to have written proof of why you had to miss court.
Not Hiring an Attorney May Be the Biggest Mistake
It has been said that a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. This means, it is best not to represent yourself in criminal court. If you are arrested, or if you have been contacted by police, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will advise you about your rights and will help you through the process.
Pappalardo & Pappalardo, LLP has been representing criminal defendants since the 1960s. And we are available 24/7 in the event of a legal emergency. We can be reached at (914) 725-7000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- New York Courts, “Criminal Case Basics.” Available at: https://www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/Criminal/caseBasics.shtml (last accessed July 22, 2020).
- The Fund for Modern Courts, “A Guide to Criminal Cases in The New York State Courts” (2005). Available at: https://www.reentry.net/ny/library/attachment.79819 (last accessed July 22, 2020).