An arrest can happen at any time (though we know that it’s more likely on nights and weekends), and you may be at work, at home with the kids or sitting back enjoying some football when the phone rings and you discover that your best friend has suddenly found himself in handcuffs.
What do you do?
There’s a few really helpful things that can help your buddy at a time like this (and you never know when you’ll need the favor returned, so make sure you get it right!)
1. Don’t get into the details of what happened without a lawyer
While you want to support your friend and be a sounding board for his frustrations and confusion, your best advice, regardless of the circumstances, is to hold his tongue unless and until he has his lawyer present. Assuming that he was listing when the Miranda Warning was read to him, he knows that his statements now can be used against him later, but what he may not realize in the heat of the moment is that this includes things that police officers or others overhear when he’s talking to you, either in person or on the phone. You can go the extra step by making sure that the same lawyer is present if and when you’re asked for a statement. Reassure him of your support and your loyalty. Talk about the weather or sports to calm him down. But wait for legal representation to talk about the arrest and the charges.
2. Help him get a lawyer
If he’s been arrested and is facing criminal charges, he will need a lawyer, and he’ll need a lawyer as quickly as possible. Everyone has a constitutionally protected right to legal defense, and a public defender can and will be assigned to your friend if can can’t afford to pay for one himself, but either way, you can provide guidance and (if he remains detained) legwork to get a lawyer present and ready.
3. Make arrangements for bail
With the exception of a clear flight risk or someone who represents a danger to others (and if that’s true of your friend, maybe you need to reconsider the friendship), many arrestees are able to secure pretrial release through payment of bail based on a bail schedule (for common charges and circumstances) or when they have the opportunity to appear before a judge. Bail amounts can be very high, but getting out of jail is by far the best option ahead of a trial, so if the bail amount isn’t affordable, you can look at the options for creating a bail bond, which will include putting together some cash for the principal and making further arrangements for collateral. As a friend, you can choose to help with the financial and collateral elements of this bail bond, though doing so puts you on the hook for paying the full bail amount should your friend make the decision not to appear at his court date. Only you know whether your friend can be trusted with this (and it may be worth reminding him that such a decision rarely ends up well).
4. Collect Information
While you should not be talking about the arrest with your friend without a lawyer present (see point #1), you can and should seek information from the police about the details of the situation. Make sure you write down everything you discover, including the charges, the names of the officers involved, the time and location of the arrest, where your friend is being held and what the next steps are.
This should all be done respectfully and politely since any belligerence on your part will likely lead to problems for your friend and a failure to gather the information you need. And at no point should you make any attempt to interfere with the arrest or the proceedings underway, nor should you seek to influence anyone’s actions. Your only job here is to collect factual information from police sources on your friend’s behalf.
5. Behave Yourself
You may be upset at your friend, you may be upset on his behalf. You may be both. But there is nothing at all to be gained by letting your emotions steer your actions or words at this time. If you harass police officers (very broadly defined), you may face arrest yourself and be far less useful to your friend. And your friend is more than likely in desperate need of a non-judgmental friend at this time … there will be plenty of opportunity later for getting real with him.
Move quickly but take your time. Stop and think as you need to get your thoughts straight. Being out of jail rather than inside, you have far more freedom to provide support and do the things that will be helpful, so be the friend that gets them through this and don’t make it about yourself.