DEFENDANTS ON TRIAL:
What You Must Know as a Defendant
Charged with a Crime
by Ira Still, Esquire
South Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer
Under Immediate Arrest
If you ever find yourself being handcuffed and shoved into a police patrol car,
this can be a devastating couple hours of your life. No one wakes up in the morning and hopes to be arrested and facing
a massive legal problem. There is so much you need to know and no place to turn for answers. That is, not until
now. The author is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer who has written this article from his vast experience to guide
you through your time in the criminal justice system. His helpful advice will steer you through the process that usually
begins with the police placing you under immediate arrest.
have a chilling way of ushering a person into the criminal justice system: "You are under arrest!"
Through the shock of these words you realize that you better comply with their directions or you might feel the sting of the
taser, the bite of the police dog or the wrath of the night stick. Terror, anger and confusion fill the moment.
You are on your way to the jail, the first appearance hearing, the bondsman's interview, the lawyer's office, the
trial court proceedings and the jury trial. You are now inside the criminal justice system until the entire process
- What is a warrant or capias?
An arrest could be based upon a warrant. But these
comprise only a small percentage of arrest situations. A warrant (or capias) is a document issued by the trial court.
It is a demand that the police take you into custody immediately wherever they may find you. Since these previously
issued court orders were based upon circumstances that you knew were in the works [like violations of probation, failure to
show up for a court hearing, etc.], they shouldn't be a total surprise. You might blow a stop sign and get pulled
over. The police run your driver's license and a capias appears on the screen. Within a very short time you
will be under arrest.
Yes. The vast majority of arrests are made by police officers acting without a warrant. Suppose you are
shopping. You walk to the door with packages in hand. When you get out to the parking lot, you're stopped
by a security officer. He looks in your bags and finds the clothes you just bought. He asks, "Where's
the sales slip?" You can't find it. "Come on back inside so we can straighten this out."
The sales clerk doesn't remember you at her register. The police are called in. You are now under
Imagine you are driving
your friends around and stop at a store. They go inside. You can't see what happens but they come running
out. They jump in and yell, "Drive, drive! Don't stop!" You follow their demands and drive
off. A high speed chase ends with a swarm of cops standing around your car; guns drawn. They are screaming, "Out
the car and on the ground." Later you learn that one of your friends tried to rob the cash register. When
it went bad, he shot a man. You are being charged with felony murder. You are panic stricken and you are also
under immediate arrest.
Let's address what to do and what not to do when you are being detained. Never try to fight the police.
You will get additional charges. Don't try running away. You will get more charges and rough treatment.
This is not a battle between you and the police. This is the police doing what the government has hired them to do.
They are under a duty and they will not back down.
along peaceably. This will help you now and later it may help your case. As in all of life, humility conquers
Don't try to talk your
way out of it. You should only tell the police your name, age, address, and other personal background information.
If you don't give them this identifying information you could get an additional charge known as resisting an officer.
But that is where you must stop talking. SAY NO MORE!
Do not talk about the facts or circumstances of the case to anyone. Tell the detectives that you refuse to
talk until you have an attorney. That is a key phrase in the law. Under the 5th Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution you have both the right to silence and the right to counsel. If you assert the right to silence by saying,
"I do not want to say anything," the police can keep trying to get you to talk. If you begin talking about
anything at all, the trial court may rule that you waived your right to silence. Only you can waive
your rights, so don't speak.
say over and over, "I want to speak to an attorney," the law says the police must immediately stop questioning you
until your attorney is present. When your attorney arrives, he will instruct the police that you won't be giving
The police will definitely testify in court about the arrest. They will tell the jury what you said and what
you did. Keep these things in mind:
cars are equipped to take videos. Some can audio tape conversations. There are also video cameras in police stations
and jails. These may be put into evidence in your court hearing or trial.
WARNING: Prosecutors use audio and video taped jailhouse
visit conversations in trial. There is no right to privacy while in custody. Only talk about your case with your
The police might
conduct a "show-up Identification." This is where the victim is brought
to the scene of arrest to see if they can identify you. Be calm and collected. Do what the police instruct you
If your friends are
arrested along with you, don't talk to them about the case either. Don't communicate with them at all.
This could seriously impact your case.
terrifying experience of being arrested will come to an end. From the initial police stop through the booking process,
this might be the worst day of your life. The single most important thing to keep in your mind is don't talk to
anyone except your attorney about the facts of your case.
For more helpful information on success
strategies for a person charged with a crime, contact
Info Blog: http://istilldefendliberty.blogspot.com/
Ira Still has been a criminal defense trial lawyer in Florida for
over 30 years. He successfully represents his clients on all crimes and in all courts. Ira has had many, many
jury trials and is well known in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale as a very successful trial and appellate lawyer. He has argued death
penalty collateral appeals in the Florida Supreme Court and in various District Courts of Appeal. He has filed briefs
in the United States Supreme Court. Ira has tried high profile cases such as police shooting the wrong person; persons
charged with shooting police; capital murder and capital sexual battery; violent crimes; drug trafficking; and virtually every
other criminal charge. Ira is also an author, speaker, teacher, mentor and coach.
© 2009 Law Offices of Ira Still