Know Your Rights: What (Not) to Do if You are Arrested

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In 2017, law enforcement in the US made more than 10 million arrests. That averages out at roughly one arrest for every 35 people in the country.

Not all arrests lead to a conviction. In order for law enforcement to do their job, it is inevitable that some of the people arrested will not have committed a crime.

The important thing is that if you’ve done nothing wrong, you don’t put yourself at risk of wrongful conviction, or incriminate yourself for crimes that you didn’t commit.

Read as we take a look at what to do if arrested.

What Not to Do If Arrested

Before we take a look at what you should do if arrested, it’s important to take a look at what you shouldn’t do.

You have legal rights that you should make use of in order to ensure that you minimize any risk of incrimination. By knowing your rights you can minimize the risk of waiving them unintentionally.

Consent to a search

You have the right to refuse a search.

If a police officer asks to search your person, your space, or your belongings, you are within your rights to refuse them. If they ask for your permission, it is because they need it in order to search you.

Police may pat down your clothing if they believe you may have a weapon, even without your consent. And they may also carry out the search against your will. But as long as you have made clear that you do not consent to the search, your rights will be preserved should it come to any legal proceedings.

It’s important to refuse consent in the right way. Tell the officer that you politely decline to consent to their search, rather than throwing it back in their face. Being confrontational is unlikely to end well.

Resist arrest

Even if you are being arrested for something that you didn’t do, you should never attempt to resist arrest.

If you believe there is something unjust or unlawful about your arrest, you will have the opportunity to determine that in court. If you attempt to resist arrest, you are likely to receive further charges at best, or be physically restrained and potentially injured at worst.

Waive your right to be silent

It’s the very first of the Miranda rights read to you during your arrest: you have the right to remain silent.

Do not waive this right. If asked to give your name then do so, and you should also ask for a lawyer. Otherwise, inform the arresting officer that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent.

Without a lawyer present, you may mistakenly say something that incriminates you, and anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. Wait until you have spoken to a lawyer who can advise you on the best way to resolve the situation.

What to Do If Arrested

We’ve taken a look at the things that you definitely shouldn’t do.

Now we’ll take a look at exactly what you should do when arrested. By following these steps you give yourself the best chance of a positive outcome further down the line.

Keep Calm

Getting arrested is a stressful situation, and when you’re exposed to stress, your body’s natural responses are fight or flight.

But both of these responses are likely to get in you in serious trouble, or worse. It is vital that you try to keep as calm as possible. Don’t try to run, don’t try to resist arrest, and don’t get confrontational.

If asked to give your name, make sure that you are not tempted to give a false one as this illegal. And always keep your hands where the arresting officer can see them.

Ask for a lawyer

You have the right to ask for a lawyer.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, you have the right to ask for a government-appointed one. Once you have made your request clear, the arrest is almost certain to continue, but by asking for a lawyer at the earliest opportunity it will minimize the time it takes for you to be appointed one.

Your lawyer will be able to advise you on everything from what to say during questioning to providing info about bail.

Remain Silent

Once you have given your name and asked for a lawyer, explain that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent, and then do so.

If you are innocent it is very tempting to begin to explain yourself and the reasons why you cannot have done what you are accused of. But any mistake in what you say can seriously harm your defense should your case go that far. Say nothing until you have had the opportunity to speak to a lawyer who can advise you what you should and should not say.

Make a Phone Call

You have the right to make a local phone call.

If you have already arranged for a lawyer then you may wish to contact friends or family. Alternatively, you might want to speak to your lawyer as soon as possible to explain your situation.

Any calls to your lawyer cannot be monitored by law enforcement. They can legally listen to calls to anyone else you speak to, so be wary that anything you say may be monitored.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.