5 Things To Do When Your Loved One is Arrested
When a loved on is arrested there is a mixture of fear and confusion. The police may have shown up at your door with an arrest warrant, or there may have been an incident at another location. You probably have little or no information about the accusations. In this difficult time, there are five things you should keep in mind that will help your loved one, or at least not make things worse.
Keep Your Cool
You are probably shocked an upset. You may have no idea what happened. Maybe you think you know what happened and are angry with your loved one. There is a broad range of emotions that you may feel. As difficult as this may be, do not make things worse by lashing out at the police. The last thing you want is to face charges yourself. Also, this is not the time to lecture or question your loved one. Most likely any charges include a potential prison sentence. At this point, you do not know the exact details. Even if your loved one did something wrong, keep in mind that the State often files charges that far exceed what actually happened. Be careful, as any unsolicited commentary could provide additional material for the statement of charges. Nevertheless, you cannot impede or obstruct an investigation. If you decide to speak to the police, you cannot say anything untruthful.
Respect the Right to Remain Silent
Be mindful that any communication that you have with your loved one during their confinement is probably recorded or otherwise monitored. If you speak on the phone or pay them a visit, this is NOT the time to recount details of what happened. It is NOT the time to ask them if they are guilty or not. If you do this, you could be subpoenaed into court to testify as a witness for the State.
At most, you should remind your loved one that he or she has the right to remain silent. While the right to remain silent protects a detainee from interrogation by the State without the presence of an attorney, you should caution your loved one that he or she should only talk to an attorney about what happened. Any discussions with fellow detainees could lead to that information being used against your loved one in court.
Keep Tabs of Their Location
After an arrest, the suspect is usually transported to the local precinct to be booked. The officer takes biographical information, along with photos, DNA, or possibly a blood alcohol test. With an “on view” arrest (i.e., an arrest without a warrant based on the observations and investigation of the police), the police will prepare a statement of charges. The statement of charges summarizes what is alleged to have happened, and it lists the alleged crimes along with the corresponding maximum penalties.
After booking, the suspect is transported to a commissioner’s office for an Initial Appearance hearing. The commissioner stations are here: http://mdcourts.gov/district/directories/commissionermap.html The purpose of the Initial Appearance hearing is to advise the suspect of the charges that he or she faces, along with the maximum penalties. The Commissioner will also present documents outlining the importance of using the services of an attorney and listing the contact information for the local Public Defender’s office if they cannot afford a private attorney.
Please note that the location of the police precinct and the commissioner’s office will probably correspond with where the arrest took place, not necessarily where the suspect lives. The Initial Appearance hearing usually occurs in the county of arrest, but sometimes a warrant may require transport to the county that issued the warrant.
When a loved one is arrested, it is natural and appropriate to want to know where they are going. If you are present at the time of arrest, the officer may tell you the applicable precinct and commissioner’s station. Some locations, such as Baltimore City, have a central booking facility where bookings and IA appearances take place. If you attempt to contact any of these places, please be respectful of the personnel and do not repeatedly make calls. If possible, find out the case number.
Prepare to Pay Bail
At the Initial Appearance hearing, the commissioner may set a bail. Most bail decisions require the posting of a sum of money or other collateral before releasing a detainee from confinement. The primary bail considerations are to secure the appearance in court and to protect a victim, or the public, from any potential dangers.
If sufficient funds are available, the full amount of the bail can be paid directly to the court in cash. These funds will be reimbursed as long as the detainee shows up for all court hearings. If you cannot afford to pay the full amount, additional options include posting “collateral security or obligation of corporation which is an insurer.” These means that you may do one of the following: (1) use property as collateral, such as a house in Maryland so long as there is enough equity in the property to cover the bail amount or (2) hire a bail bondsman to post the bail.
When using a bail bondsman, the detainee is advised that a 10% premium will be charged. In other words, if the bail amount is $10,000.00, the bondsman can charge $1,000.00. When you search for bondsman, though, you will see advertisements for 1% bonds. Please note that a 1% agreement will be a down payment to secure the release of the detainee. There will be additional payments due afterward. Keep in mind that, while bail bondsmen provide a valuable service for people who do not have property or cash to pay the full bail amount, signing an agreement with a bail bondsman binds you into a contractual obligation.
Keep Track of Court Dates
After the IA hearing, at a minimum, your loved one will have paperwork with the case number on it. Sometimes they will have a court date, while other times they must wait for a court date to arrive in the mail. A significant percentage of arrest warrants are for “Failure to Appear” on a court date. An FTA carries additional penalties of up to one year for a misdemeanor or 5 years for a felony.
While mistakes and unexpected circumstances happen, most FTAs are avoidable. You can help your loved one by noting the court date on a calendar and reminding them about it. If you are unsure of the date, time, or location, you can check it online at Maryland Judiciary Case Search (http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/casesearch//inquiry-index.jsp). Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for someone who has FTAs in a case to face a significant bail, leading to an extended stay in jail while waiting for the court date. Sadly, the underlying charge might not have resulted in any prison time had they simply shown up in court in the first place.
In conclusion, while I have not listed it here as a “to do,” it is imperative that your loved one have legal representation from an attorney. If a private attorney is unaffordable, please have your loved one contact the Public Defender’s Office right away. The paperwork from the IA hearing will include the address and phone number for the applicable PD’s office for the case.
If you would like to discuss this situation with me and inquire about representation, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at my office number, 410-777-8043.