If You Are Arrested in Phoenix, Here Is What You Need to Know

Know Your Rights

Police officer handcuffing suspect at roadside
Zigy Kaluzny / Getty Images

I hope you are never arrested, but if it should happen, you must understand some basic principles. From the perspective of the person who has been arrested, what happens prior to booking is highly critical. This article will focus on the important period of time immediately after your Phoenix arrest. Note that although each law enforcement agency may have their own procedures, each one is bound to U.S. and Arizona Constitutional and Statutory Law.

In Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, several law enforcement agencies have the power to arrest you. Each city has its own police force (e.g. Phoenix, Surprise, Mesa, Peoria, etc.). The Department of Public Safety ("DPS") handles primarily vehicular enforcement on the highways. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office ("MCSO") is responsible for county-wide law enforcement duties. Each law enforcement agency has its own procedures for arrest depending upon the situation and depending upon the crime.

Each city has its own detention room. However, many cities, including Phoenix, do not use their detention cells for long term incarceration. Instead, a person staying for more than the booking process is typically transferred to a county facility (commonly the Fourth Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix). That person will stay there unless bond can be obtained (bond is not always available). Transfer to one of the other county jails—Durango, Towers, Lower Buckeye Jail, Madison, as examples—may also occur while awaiting trial.

Getting Arrested in Arizona: What Next?

You’re placed under arrest. The officer places you in cuffs. You’re read your rights. What do you do? The purpose of this article is not to advise you how to get away with a crime, but rather to help you focus on intelligent actions that can be taken when placed under arrest. Here is what you should and should not do when the arm of the law arrests you.

Miranda Rights: Not a Formality

We’ve all heard these rights before. You might not know that they stem from a U.S. Supreme Court case involving a Phoenix man.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present before any questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning. Do you understand these rights?

Unfortunately, this important statement of rights has become so ingrained in our vernacular that it is simply used as a moment in time in which the defendant composes what he is to say next. It is merely white noise in the background.

Regardless of your guilt or innocence, a suspect’s words very often can and do come to haunt them. A statement, which in the suspect’s mind, is a defense of his innocence, might actually incriminate him from the perspective of the officer, and subsequently, a prosecutor. Investigating a crime, any crime, can be a very complicated process for the police. A suspect’s statements are like a road map to the officer’s goal, that is, to arrest someone for the crime they are investigating. Unfortunately, that road map might lead, quite unintentionally, to the suspect.

Furthermore, keep in mind that once you are placed under arrest, the officer has presumably done some investigation which leads them to believe that they had probable cause to believe that YOU committed a crime. The officer has already made their decision. Your words after that can only hurt you. The thought that you can change the officer’s mind with your words of wisdom is a foolish one, and one that has no connection with the real world.

What Not To Do If You Are Arrested

What are some common verbal blunders that arrestees make? Some try to bargain their way out of the arrest. "Please officer, give me one free pass, will ya?" Some cry and plead. Some try to argue that the cop should be out arresting real criminals (thereby implying that you are guilty, but there are others committing worse crimes than the one you just committed). When asked to do field sobriety tests, a common response is "I couldn't do these sober." All of these statements will later be highlighted to a judge or jury as evidence of your guilt.

Again, the State will use your own words to hang you.

What You Should Do If You Are Arrested

So, should you just keep your mouth shut? For the most part, the answer to that question is yes. You’re under extreme anxiety; do not trust yourself to be logical with the police (as if that would help in that instance anyway). However, don’t forget the other part of the Miranda Rights advisory. Specifically, ask to speak to an attorney. Don’t be vague. Don’t say, "...maybe I should speak to an attorney?" Politely say that you would like to speak to an attorney and that you would like to speak to that attorney in private.

At that point, the officer’s training should have taught him to cease ALL questioning. If questioning continues, without honoring your request to speak privately to an attorney, the case becomes subject to a Motion to Dismiss for Right to Counsel Violation (or, at a minimum, a suppression of all evidence seized after the violation occurred). Your invocation of your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney, cannot be used against you at trial. If you’re convicted at that point, you would not have helped convict yourself with your own words.

Do Not Resist Arrest

Officers have an extremely difficult and dangerous job. Every arrest, every investigation brings with it the potential of life threatening consequences. Society, as we know it, would absolutely fall apart without good and honest police officers. Thus, regardless of your thoughts about your particular situation, there is no need to be abusive, belligerent, argumentative or otherwise difficult with the officer. First of all, as discussed above, the officer won’t change his mind about arresting you, and that is especially so after you engage him verbally or physically.

In fact, you subject yourself to further criminal charges for resisting arrest if your actions go too far. Second, your attitude towards the police will be presented as supporting a guilty verdict against you. Juries typically do not like a person who fights with the police and will most likely see such evidence as evidence of guilt of the primary crime. If convicted and sentenced, the prosecutor will, no doubt, use your conduct with the police as support for a stiffer sentence. No good will come out of displaying aggressive behavior towards the police.

So, your attitude towards the officer must be polite. As discussed above, request to speak to an attorney in private. Fight the case later with your lawyer. Don’t fight the police.

Guilty or Innocent, Invoke Your Rights

The right to remain silent and the right to an attorney are not just meaningless words of victory for a police officer effectuating an arrest. They are an important advisory for anyone, guilty or innocent, who is placed under arrest. I can’t think of one instance where a suspect should waive either of these rights, especially during the critical time of arrest. Play it safe. Invoke your rights.