Believe it or not, there may come a time in your life that you get arrested. No matter how good of a law-abiding citizen you are, unfortunate events or mistakes can happen.
Getting arrested can be overwhelming, to say the very least. Especially for the average person like yourself. The shock and confusion you may experience could get you into a worse situation than whatever got you into the mess in the first place.
It’s important you understand your rights and what to do if you’re ever arrested for something minor.
Here are three crucial things everyone should keep in the back of their minds:
1. Think Twice Before Providing a DNA Sample
If a police officer mentions conducting a DNA sweep, or dragnet, understand that you are legally allowed to refuse.
Understand also that the police are legally allowed to try to get you to do what they want or expect. That means they can lie, intimidate you by yelling, invade your space, pretend they have evidence and state false accusations.
Your DNA is the most private and intimate of information. It can carry insights into family relationships, ancestry, physical characteristics, potential risks for diseases and your even your likelihood of becoming addicted to different substances.
Police DNA tests have been highly criticized for racial profiling and an infringement of privacy. Not to mention, they aren’t even infallible and the over-collection and storage of DNA makes it more difficult to find actual criminals.
As an American with rights under the Constitution, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. You may refuse a DNA test if you are arrested.
If you are asked (or told) to do a DNA test, do not resist arrest. Just politely refuse, stay calm and don’t fall into the trap of psychological interrogation techniques.
2. Keep it together, emotionally
Getting arrested is a distressing situation.
It’s also a very sensitive situation. The officer is on high-alert, so your emotions and actions will play a role in how he or she responds to you.
Too often people let their emotions control them and they end up in a worse situation than they were before. Say you get arrested for a minor traffic violation. Well, that can quickly spiral into horrible consequences if you resist arrest or lash out at an officer (in some cases, fatal consequences). All for something that could be handled later in court.
When you’re arrested, make sure you remember to keep it cool and know your rights.
Do not argue or be rude. You should ask why you’re being arrested.
Do not put your hands anywhere the officer cannot see them. If you are pulled over, keep your hands visibly on the steering wheel.
Understand that you have the powerful Miranda Rights on your side. You do not have to answer ANY questions an officer asks you. You can say that you do not wish to speak without an attorney. Anything you say, no matter how harmless it seems, could carry the potential to harm you later.
3. Manage your public record
A misdemeanor – while a “less serious” criminal offense – will stay on your public record for life. That includes traffic violations, petty theft, simple assault, trespassing, etc.
But there is something you may be able to do so that your arrest doesn’t hold you back from future pursuits.
In a process called expungement, you may be able to seal your record – meaning your arrest would disappear from your records.
To get an arrest expunged, one would have to begin by investigating their jurisdiction’s expungement procedures. For more on expungement, check out our blog post on the topic which explains more about the process: When Convictions Disappear: The Process of Expungement
Remember: you don’t know with 100 percent certainty you won’t get ever arrested for something. You could be protesting a noble cause and get arrested. You could be driving without a license and get arrested. You could accidentally trespass on someone’s land and get arrested.
Getting arrested can potentially happen to anyone, so it’s important to keep these three points in mind – for your sake.