How does "I want to see my lawyer" work?

Suppose you are arrested and are being interrogated and you say that line you always hear on television: “I want to talk to my lawyer.” What happens after that? How does it really work? In most cases I would imagine that you don’t already have a lawyer, and if you are upper-middle class like me I assume you wouldn’t want a public defender. So then how do you go about finding a good lawyer? Are you allowed access to a phone book? If you already have an attorney (but they are not a criminal lawyer) do you call them? Do you really have only one phone call? Are you allowed any time and means of researching lawyers before you call?

bump (was only on the ‘new posts’ or ‘general questions’ tabs for no more than an hour before being pushed into oblivion)

Emphasis added. PDF source.
ETA: And for what it’s worth, just because a link no longer appears on the front page to you, doesn’t mean it has vanished for all of us. The first page of links for me for GQ currently goes back to 4-something a.m. on Monday.

The key is to stop answering questions/talking to the police and unequivocally demand a lawyer. Statements like: “I think I should talk to my lawyer” and “Shouldn’t my lawyer be here?” have been found to not constitute asking for counsel.

Agreed with the above. As to your other questions: in most places you do get one phone call, although they might be lenient and give you another one if you persuade them it’s really urgent. About how to contact a lawyer: when you’re arrested and you’re brought in for questioning, unless you were expecting it or you have a criminal lawyer already, most people just take the public defender or whichever lawyer is “on call” for the police station at that point. Once they’re bailed they can get then research into getting their own lawyer if they want. Alternatively you can ask the person on your one phone call to find a good lawyer for you, and wait in jail until they find one and until they make it down to accompany you for the interview. You’re also allowed to just speak to your lawyer on the phone if you’re not too bothered about them physically accompanying you in the interview (I don’t think speaking to your lawyer counts as your “one phone call”, although I’m not sure about how that works in different places).

I agree with what’s already been posted. You need to unequivocally (and even repeatedly) ask to speak to a lawyer, and then you need to shut up until he or she arrives. Failing to do either has been found to be giving your implicit consent to continue to be questioned by police.

From my limited experience as a wayward youth, the one phone call thing is Hollywood. They usually have a pay phone in the holding cell that makes collect calls only. You can make a thousand calls as long as the guy in line behind you doesn’t smack you or the person on the other end of the line keeps paying.

IIRC, they have the listing of bail bondsmen on the wall and those calls were free. (I never had to use one). But otherwise, unless you’ve made a complete ass of yourself during the process, they want to get you out of there. Most jails are overcrowded, so they will help you get a hold of someone to come and post your bond and pick you up so that they can make room for the next miscreant.

If you don’t know a lawyer, then you should find one AFTER you post bond. Refuse to talk to the cops until then. If it is a serious crime where you aren’t going anywhere for a while, you would have to call someone on the outside who could find a decent lawyer or go with the public defender that they provide. (Option one is better, and remember to shut your yap until. Also the calls on the jail phone are recorded so don’t tell your brother that you murdered 15 people and to please get you a lawyer!)

The law entitles you to A lawyer, it does not entitle you to a laptop to do google searches at 3am for Johnny Cochran.

In the real world there is no lawyer that is going to show up at the police station. If you are under arrest when you are being questioned you will either be released on bail or sent to the jail. Your time would be better spent trying to secure bail than to talk to a lawyer in the middle of the night. All you will get out of it is a bill. If you do choose to speak with a lawyer present there is plenty of time for that. Nothing ever goes quickly.

The thought that all calls are recorded in jail is false. I know this as I worked for 4 years as a prison tech for BellSouth installing and maintaining the inmate phone systems. While it true that SOME jails have the ability to listen in to a call (and by default record the call) I didn’t see one recording device connected to the inmate phone system in the 11 county/city jails that I maintained.

Now, with that being said your calls can be monitored at the very least by the telephone techs like myself when we were working on the system. In fact, we once turned in an inmate for threatening his (what we assumed) girlfriend. They came down on him pretty hard IIRC. If I recall correctly from asking the jails and my supervisors jail calls cannot be recorded when speaking with an attorney. The information between the attorney and the inmate is confidential. If the authorities monitored those calls it would open up a can of worms, not to mention a few lawsuits.

Where I live, you get one phone call. The phone is away from the cells, usually by the police station reception desk, so it’s certainly not something prisoners can use whenever they like. They have to be accompanied by an officer during the call to make sure they’re not intimidating witnesses or something like that.

Nope. Every police station I’ve ever been to has had lawyers on call who show up to advise prisoners, 24/7. And that was in the real world.

I am a criminal defense attorney. One of those public defenders some of you would rather not have.

  1. Miranda rights only apply to custodial interrogation, i.e., you are being questioned in a way where you are literally not free to leave, or in a way where a reasonable person would feel like they wouldn’t be free to leave.

  2. Most encounters with law enforcement would likely not meet the standard of custodial interrogation.

However, once a “confession” or an inculpatory statement has been made, all there needs to be is the slightest modicum of corroborating evidence for there to be, “sufficient facts for a finding of guilt.” The goal is confession, everything after that is gravy.

So if you find yourself being questioned by police, for any reason… Keep your mouth shut. Once you DEMAND an attorney, the interview should end. At that point, one of few things will happen:

  1. Without a confession, police do not have enough evidence against you for a magistrate to find probable cause to charge you with a crime. You will be released. Call a lawyer.

  2. Without your confession, there is still probable cause that you committed a crime, and the magistrate will issue a warrant for your arrest. However, based on the charge and your history, either the magistrate or a judge at an arraignment, will set a reasonable bond. Post bond and call a lawyer.

  3. Without a confession, there is probable cause for a magistrate to issue a warrant for arrest. Based on the charge, or your history, neither the magistrate nor the judge will set bond. Get comfy, and use the public phone in your pod to call your mom. She will call me. 20 times. My office also takes all collect calls from the jail. :slight_smile:

Bottom line… Don’t talk! They need your confession(usually) to make probable cause. In fact, 80% of the warrants I see contain some form of admission. Police have a million ways they can try to get you to talk, and they will lie!

They will say, just tell us the truth, we will take care of you, we believe you, we know you didn’t mean to hurt her, if it was me, when I was a kid, your buddy already told us everything, we have a video but we want to give you the chance to step up and admit it, we will go to bat for you with the prosecutor… blah blah blah. ALL LIES.

In our jail, every single phone call is recorded. I will not discuss case details with clients over the phone. Calls between attorneys and clients can not be USED in court as evidence. But they are recorded. Calls between our clients and their moms, girls, wives, sisters, etc… can and have been used against my clients.

Ultimately, Miranda warnings upon any arrest or police encounter and lawyers sitting in on interrogations are pretty much a product of TV. If you are arrested for DUI, bar fight or something, use your phone call to call your wife and tell her your ok. Keep your mouth shut, your back to a wall, and sleep it off. You will likely be released as soon as your BAC reads .00, and the only questions they will ask you is name, age and address.

I just read over my post and it sounds like all my clients in jail are men. Not true. Sorry if I offended anyone.

Also, just as a point of interest, most private attorneys take court appointed cases pretty regularly. The public defenders office is routinely conflicted out if cases where we represent, or have represented, a victim or codefendant. So it is your absolute right to spend three grand on a hired gun. But know that Joe schmo got your same attorney for $120 because he is indigent and we represent his co-defendant.

Yes, I do get a bit touchy on this subject.

In Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon, creator of The Wire, he wrote about how Baltimore homicide detectives work. They offer the suspect the chance to “tell his side of the story” before asserting their right to a lawyer. They tell him stuff like:

“Once you up and call for that lawyer, son, we can’t do a damn thing for you. . . . The next authority figure to scan your case will be a tie-wearing, three-piece bloodsucker - a no-nonsense prosecutor from the Violent Crimes Unit . . . And God help you then, son . . . . Now’s the time to speak up . . . because once I walk out of this room any chance you have of telling your side of the story is gone and I gotta write it up the way it looks. . . . And it looks right now like first-degree murder.”

Suspects are cajoled to believe that the detectives care about them, that their crime is not really murder, that the detective believes their story and will go in to bat for them. Once the detective has a confession he leaves and with the other squad members openly laughs at the suspects gullibility. The squad had a saying “crime makes you stupid”.

Agreed with this. “You’re not man enough to do this sort of thing”, “what if that victim had been your mother or sister”, etc as well. I don’t blame them for using any of this stuff though, at the end of the day it’s apparently a fairly effective way of getting criminals to freely admit to their crimes, and it’s not like they’re beating them or anything.

So, once you demand a lawyer, do you have to take steps to get one? Or will they provide one if they get tired of waiting? I assume if you don’t have one by the bail hearing / arraignment, you risk being held if the crime is serious?

Can the police nag you to drop the lawyer request, or is that improper? I assume they can make you sit quietly in the interrogation room and keep waking you up, lawyer or not, as long as they don’t ask questions?

I assume with the petty things - DUI, bar fights, etc. - they don’t care once they realize there’s no confession forthcoming?

Thanks for the insight. I really wasn’t aware that prison officials could listen to phone calls between clients and lawyers. I was mis-informed I guess. I worked in the Atlanta area, but I am assuming your

I don’t know what happened above, stupid laptop trackpad jumped the mouse and hit the submit button. I went to edit and for some reason even though I was within a few seconds it claimed I missed the edit window. Sorry everyone.
Thanks for the insight. I really wasn’t aware that prison officials could listen to phone calls between clients and lawyers. I was mis-informed I guess. I worked in the Atlanta area, but I am assuming your insight is applicable to all the States. As far as the recording of the calls I find it very interesting that your local jail records all of the calls. As I said upthread I saw zero recording done when I was a tech for the county jails in the Atlanta area. I did see a case were we had installed a monitor in a wardens office for the purpose of listening, but no device for him to record the call. Though I suppose a handheld recorder could be used.

I am wondering if the jail you are referring to was a small jail? The reason I ask is I would find it almost impossible to record all the calls from a facility as large as say the Fulton County Jail. This jail has thousands of inmates and the calls run into the thousands if not 10 thousand a day. The problems I see are storage and computing power to do so. Although I retired from BellSouth in 2003, so I guess those issues are no longer valid with the increase in computer technology. I will say that monitoring a specific inmate on a specific phone from a remote location would be a very difficult challenge. In the Fulton County cell blocks each block held aprox. 50 prisoners and had a bank of around 8 to 10 payphones. Unless a guard would visual watch an inmate and inform someone which phone he was using it would be tough to find that conversation. That’s the other thing about recording all the phone calls. How would you weed through the average phone call to get to the one you needed?

I am not disagreeing with your facts, I just find them very interesting and relevant to my career. I rarely get to discuss any aspect of my career any longer. There wasn’t very many inmate techs out there so this usually doesn’t come up in everyday conversation. Also, great advice on keeping your mouth shut. Don’t tell a cop anything, ever! It will be used against you, and what you think are the most innocent statements could come back to haunt you. I know from experience that if a cop has you detained, he is no longer your friend and is trying to get you to hang yourself. Ask for the lawyer.

I used to tell my arrestees something along the lines of what “don’t ask” is talking about:

“If you even mention the “L” word we are done. You can’t change your mind. You are going directly to jail. You can call your mouthpiece from there. Eventually. I don’t know how long that might take and I have no control over it. Remember, if you decide to talk to me now you can stop at any time but once you exercise your right to have an attorney present there is no going back until you are represented and that could take a while, particularly in the case of a public defender. So what do you want to do?”.

Is it putting pressure on them? Sure. It it all true? Every word. Sometimes I prayed for them to ask for a lawyer. In most cases I had enough evidence without a statement and I was just too tired play the game. Homicides were different. You can never have enough evidence in a murder case.

I love the “Right to a phone call”. Which amendment was that? Yep, you can make a call. From the jail. Have a nice day. In reality, I’d probably give you your call even if you didn’t confess provided you were respectful and it wasn’t a violent crime. It might save me a trip to the jail if someone can post bail for you.

md2000 - I missed the edit period but wanted to address your question. If you are getting your own lawyer its on you as to how and when. If you are talking about the one that “will be provided if you can’t afford your own” then you have to fill out some forms and be interviewed by someone from the Public Defender’s office so that a determination can be made as to whether or not you actually qualify for a PD. In my experience that could take a week or two if you are sitting in jail. If you are out on bail, maybe longer.

I know you’re in Canada, so I’ll fill you in on what would happen in that country. It’s similar to what happens in the United States, but there are a couple of significant differences.

You have the right to a lawyer, and the police will help you get one if you ask–the police will give you a telephone, a phone directory, and even the number of a Legal Aid lawyer standing by 24/7/365 if you want. You can make as many calls as you like, within reason (i.e. call a lawyer for help, call a spouse to let them know you’ll be delayed, but don’t call a buddy to discuss the ball game). Invariably, the lawyer’s advice will be to shut up and not say anything to anybody.

In Canada, you do not have the right to have a lawyer present during questioning. So, once you’ve used the phone to call a lawyer, the police can question you as much as they like, whether the lawyer is there or not; and more importantly, whether you like it or not. You cannot tell them that they have to stop until your lawyer gets here–it doesn’t work that way in Canada.

For most of the petty things (and there are a lot of petty things), the person is simply processed and released with a promise to appear at court on a certain date–usually, release occurs in less than two hours, unless they are too impaired to be released (this is for their safety). Often, they will be even asked to show up at the police station a few days later for photos and fingerprinting. Now, if they miss the fingerprinting date or the court date, a warrant can be issued for their arrest, but most people meet both dates without a problem. Cash bail is often not requested–perhaps a good thing, as there are no bail bondsmen in Canada.