Being Arrested is not the Worst Thing in the World

I’ve spent hundreds – maybe thousands – of hours in jail. I’m a criminal defense lawyer. On any given day, I may be in jail interviewing a client, or appearing in a jail courtroom, or trying to free someone.

It’s what I do.

Most people have never been in jail. Thankfully. Jail is, after all, not the best place in the world to be. That’s putting it mildly.

But as I, any good Raleigh criminal lawyer, and even any police officer or prosecutor will tell you, being arrested is not the worst thing in the world. Not by a long stretch.

I say this, because so many of my clients call me after they’ve been arrested. But, before they were arrested, they gave statements. And they gave statements to police because the police officer or detective told them, “If you don’t want to talk to me, that’s fine. I’ll have to arrest you.”

So in their desperation not to be arrested, people talk. And they give statements. And, lo’ and behold, they’re still arrested.

You may be saying to me, “But, but… the police said they wouldn’t arrest me! They promised me if I talked, they wouldn’t arrest.”

Welcome to the cruel world of criminal investigations. The Supreme Court has held that police may deceive – some may say, “lie” – to people in during the course of the investigation. Police will frequently deceive, shade the truth, and, yes, even lie, in order conduct an investigation.

It’s not that police are bad people. They aren’t. But they have jobs. And keeping you out of jail is not one of them. Putting you in jail, if they believe or suspect, you’ve committed a crime, is an officer’s job. And in pursuit of that job, police will say what needs to be said in order to persuade the person to talk, even if they know at the end of the day that they are going to arrest you.

Back to my original point: Being Arrested (and being placed in jail) is not the Worst Thing in the World.

Talking to police… giving unprotected statements – meaning statements without the presence of a lawyer… that’s much, much worse than being placed in jail. Even if you have “nothing to hide,” talking to police is almost always a bad idea, whether you’re being investigated for a simple Driving While Impaired (DWI), or whether you’re being questioned about or investigated for the murder of your wife.

People call me all the time before they’ve been arrested but after they’ve been contacted by police. And while every situation is different and you should always call a lawyer – (919) 352-9411 – before taking advice, I always recommend hiring a lawyer before talking to police.

While every case is different, people who hire lawyers before police arrest or charge a crime, almost always do better in the criminal justice system, than people who don’t. Some people are never charged. And those who are charged, generally have an easier time achieving better results.

What is Worse than Being Arrested? Having a criminal conviction!

In most instances, it is usually very simple to get someone out of jail, particularly if the crime is not violent or serious and particularly if the person has no other serious criminal history. So being arrested is unpleasant. It is scary. It’s stressful. But it’s over in a few hours, and, in many cases, people can get out of jail that same day or within a day or so.

If police are questioning you, my general thought is that you should always respectfully decline to speak without the help of a lawyer. Do it politely. If police persist, and threaten arrest, you should continue to insist on your right to a lawyer.

Even if you can’t afford a lawyer at that moment, friends or family can usually help. Or you can work out a payment plan with a lawyer.

But you should never give up your right to speak with a lawyer. Doing so is foolish, and is much more expensive for you in the long term.

And, of course, speaking with a police officer almost always strengthens their case against you, even if you “don’t have anything to hide.”

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.