Escape the Jailbird Blues: What You Should Know Before You Turn Yourself in to the Police
Things to Know Before Turning Yourself In: A Lawyer's Guide
Sometimes the worst happens. You are going about your day as normal when suddenly you receive a phone call. On the other end of the line, there is a member of law enforcement speaking. A warrant has been issued for your arrest and you are requested to come and turn yourself in as soon as possible. Maybe this is something you have had happen before. Maybe this is your first time getting into any sort of trouble. Regardless, we here at Kurtz & Blum, PLLC want you to be prepared if you find yourself in this situation.
Call the local Sheriff's Office
In North Carolina, county jails are maintained by the local Sheriff’s Office. Rules and regulations may vary from county to county, so if you have any questions prior to turning yourself in, contact the county Sheriff’s Office. The best days to turn yourself in are Tuesday and Wednesday. The worst days to turn yourself in are Monday and Friday. This is because on Monday, there will typically be a backlog of arrests from the weekend that will need to be processed. On Friday, there may not be enough time for a judge or magistrate to see you before the weekend. Also, the earlier you can turn yourself in during the day, the better. 7:00am is a safe bet. Choosing the best time to turn yourself in can mean the difference between getting back to your life quickly and spending more time than you’d like in jail.
Once arrested, you will not be able to leave until bond is set. Bond is set either by a magistrate or a judge. Having a lawyer present will not speed the process up – we cannot force a magistrate to see you, and we have no authority to determine when or how your bond will be set before you are taken into custody. However, if you cannot be seen by a magistrate and your bond is to be set by a judge during a bond hearing, a criminal defense attorney can be present to assist you during a bond hearing if you have retained their services beforehand.
Your Right to Remain Silent
While in custody, anything you say can and often will be used against you in a court of law. If questioned by law enforcement, you can exercise your right to remain silent by stating, “I would like to exercise my right to remain silent,” or by stating, “I would like an attorney to be present before I answer any questions or make any statements.”
People often have the urge to talk to police about their case so they can “set the record straight” or have their side of the story heard. This impulse is understandable. It can also lead to you being convicted, or weaken the negotiating position of your attorney. No matter how nice a law enforcement officer is being, you were not asked to allow yourself to be arrested because the police wanted to be your friend – the police are trying to get you convicted of a criminal charge. Even the most innocent statements about the events that led to your arrest can be interpreted negatively in a court of law. It is better not to say anything at all than to say the wrong thing to the police.
What You Should Bring
When you show up to the police station, dress conservatively and dress comfortably. There is no need to be in your Sunday best – a presentable pair of pants and a plain t-shirt will do. You may be forced to change into an orange jumpsuit at some point, but if you are being processed quickly, you may not have to do so. You will be searched as part of the booking process, and items may be confiscated if they are considered “contraband.” This can include tobacco products (which are not allowed in certain county detention facilities, including Wake County jails), nail files, and pocket knives. You will not be able to use your cell phone after you have been booked. If it is going to be necessary for you to contact someone after you have been processed, either commit their number to memory or write the numbers down on a piece of paper. Jail personnel will generally let you keep a piece of paper with such information written down on it.
If you have any medical conditions that require specialized medications or equipment, call the Sheriff’s Office ahead of time to ask what the medical procedures are for inmates in county lockup. Policies can vary from county to county, and can sometimes change quickly without notice. Calling ahead will make it more likely that you are getting the most up-to-date information.
Finally, treat law enforcement officials and jail personnel with respect and courtesy. Being polite may not help you get out of custody more quickly, but it will certainly make your stay more pleasant. And remember, the staff of Kurtz & Blum are here to assist you if you need us.