What To Do If You’ve Been Arrested
How the System Works Against You
Being placed under arrest and taken into custody for an alleged crime is an extremely traumatic experience. It can happen very quickly, without your full understanding of events or the reason behind it, and few people are ever prepared to find themselves in handcuffs in the back of a squad car. Your keys, wallet, phone, and even your clothing are taken away, and all of your resources are cut off– you are, in other words, completely powerless at a moment’s notice. If you’ve been arrested, the system is not on your side, and it’s critical to know how to react, what to say (or not say), and what to do in every step of the process from being read your Miranda rights to posting bail.
After you are arrested and taken to jail, your right to due process means the government has 2 business days (which can equal three to four calendar days if you are arrested on a holiday or weekend) to bring you to court to appear before a judge for your arraignment. Arraignment is where you enter your plea. Since you haven’t obtained your criminal defense attorney yet, enter a plea of Not Guilty. After you do this, two hearing dates will be automatically set in the court calendar. The first hearing takes place five business days after the arraignment, and is usually called a Felony Settlement Conference (FSC). At the FSC, criminal defense lawyer and the district attorney meet to go over the details of your case and attempt to settle it, or your attorney can request a dismissal.
If your case cannot be settled or dismissed, your next hearing date will take place about eight business days after your arraignment. This is called a Preliminary Hearing, in which the D.A. is required to present their evidence and show probable cause to pursue the case. At this hearing, your lawyer will cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses and make motions dictating that pieces of evidence should be excluded or dismissed, another opportunity to get the case dismissed by the judge.
After the Preliminary Hearing, if the judge rules that the prosecution has provided sufficient evidence to warrant going to trial, you will be issued an order stating that you are “held to answer” for the charges. If you receive this order, you will be arraigned again within 10 business days, and the D.A. will proceed filing for information on your case. There will be another arraignment following these filings, and after this the government has 60 calendar days to bring your case to trial.
(All of these date and time limits are the deadlines imposed upon the justice system in which they must conduct their business according to your right to due process of law. They are required to go this quickly, but you have the right to file requests for more time and to waive some of these deadlines to give your defense attorney more time to work on building your case.)
The Right to Remain Silent: Use It!
From the beginning of your introduction into the criminal justice system as a defendant/accused criminal, when the police arrest you and advise you of it, you have a constitutional right to remain silent. It’s important to adhere to this for the entire duration of your case– do not speak to the police, reporters, other attorneys, media, or even friends or family about your case unless specifically advised to do so in a particular way by your defense counsel. Do not speak to anyone about your case without your attorney’s presence and approval from the time of your arrest through your time being held in jail, questioning by police, multiple arraignment sessions appearing before the judge, and trial.
In particular, do not speak to anyone about your case over the phone from jail. All calls to and from correctional facilities are recorded and monitored, and the prosecution WILL get their hands on those conversations. Even what seems to you like a minor detail or passing conversation can be disastrous for the defense your legal team is building. Don’t discuss anything important to your defense on a jail phone, not even in a language besides English– the government employs hundreds of thousands of translators to record your conversation in every possible form.
These are only a few of the key pieces of information and directives you need to know if you are arrested and accused of a crime in the courts. Every case is different, so to make decisions about the next step, you must consult with a qualified defense attorney like Karine Basmadjian.
Protect Your Rights With a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer
Karine Basmadjian is available to provide criminal defense counsel in Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, Ventura County, San Bernardino County, and Santa Barbara County as well as represent you in cases at the federal level. As a former prosecutor, she knows that working within the criminal justice system is a complex undertaking.