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If you need to consult with an attorney, please contact the Erie County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service.

What Do I Do if Arrested?

Being placed under arrest does not always mean that you have been placed in handcuffs or taken to jail. Rather, an “arrest” is any action by law enforcement that indicates an intent to take you into custody or that restricts your movement to a degree that a reasonable person would not feel free to leave the scene. Should you be arrested, you have many rights which you may want to exercise.

First, you have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you free of charge through the Public Defender's Office if meet the income and eligibility requirements. You should tell the police officer at the time of arrest that you wish to speak to either your attorney or to one appointed by the Court prior to giving any statements. Your attorney will then be able to advise you as to further procedures and will act as your spokesperson.

Second, you have an absolute right to remain silent. This means that you are under no obligation to speak to the law enforcement officers. If you do talk to them, anything you say can be used against you in Court. It is usually in your best interest to consult with your attorney before making a decision whether or not you should speak to the police.

You should also know that you are not required to consent to any searches or tests. Again, it is usually in your best interest to consult with your attorney before making a decision to consent. However, if you are arrested for DUI, you do not have the right to an attorney in deciding whether or not submit to a chemical test. You must make this decision without the aid of counsel. You do have the right refuse chemical testing but, should you choose to refuse, the consequence for doing so will be the loss of your driving privilege for at least one year. 

Finally, if after your arrest, the law enforcement officer intends to hold you in jail, you have the right to be promptly taken before a Magisterial District Judge for a preliminary arraignment. In most circumstances, the Magisterial District Judge is also required to set a reasonable bail. In Erie County, bail is typically posted by paying the bail-amount to the Erie County Clerk of Courts which is located at the Erie County Court House; the Magisterial District Judge may also accept bail directly at his or her office. You may also retain the services of a Bail Bonds professional to post bail. The funds posted as bail will be returned to the person posting it at the completion of your case so long as you appear at all Court proceedings as required. You will not receive back any fee paid to a Bail Bondsman for posting bond on your behalf.

It is critical in all criminal matters, that you retain counsel to represent you immediately, whether at your own expense or through the public defender’s office. Often times, having counsel on your side from the beginning of any such case can be crucial in preserving and obtaining evidence which may ultimately help exonerate you.   4/18