How to find a lawyer when you're in jail?

I generally stay on the right side of the law - actually, I’ve never had so much as a traffic ticket in my life. I don’t know any lawyers, and I’d consider myself fortunate if I can go through life without talking to a lawyer for anything more than closing a house deal, or making a will, or somesuch.

But, who knows, sometime I might venture to the “other side of the tracks” where, heaven forbid- I might get mixed up in something. Guilty or innocent - maybe I’ll find myself in the hoosegow, with a deputy saying things like “You got one phone call boy…”. How to you go about finding a lawyer in that situation? Pick up the yellow pages? (“Hello, A. Able and Sons?, can you help me out of this jam?”) I don’t think so.

So what do you do? I can think of two variations to this situation - one, maybe you’re in your home town or nearby, where you can call out to friends/relatives for assistance, and two- you’re far, far away from home (still in the USA, say) unfamiliar with the laws, and have no hope of someone you know showing up at the jailhouse.

I realize this contradicts sentiments expressed in your first paragraph, but I’ve found it a good thing to be able to count a couple of lawyers amongst my friends.

It doesn’t hurt to know a few folks in various professions; in fact it can come in quite handy.

If you can’t engineer an acquaintance with an attorney before you wind up in a holding cell, I guess you could poll your cellmates.

Following arrest, detainees are brought before a magistrate in short order, at which point the counsel-thing is broached. Indigents get counsel appointed, and yes, they make housecalls to the pokey. If one is not indigent, one has to make one’s own arrangmements, and if confinement proves to be an obstacle in that regard it would not be inappropriate to say something to the magistrate like, “I’ll need to hire my own lawyer, but I’ll need immediate access to a phone to do so, or to call a friend or relative so he or she might do so on my behalf.” The magistrate assurdly will order or implore the custodians to accommodate your needs in that regard, and all will be good. Is this a great country, or what?

I can’t speak for outside my own jurisdiction, but here in Ontario the police stations and jails have lists of criminal lawyers who are available to take calls. For persons who are unable to retain a lawyer over the phone, duty counsel are available prior to any court appearance. There is no such thing as “one call only” here. (Which is why my home phone is unlisted and not plugged in :wink: .)

Seriously, that is a good idea, and is something which I would do.

Would imagine there’s a bulletin board or something around the jailhouse phones with lawyers cards all over it.Bail bonds men always have offices around the jails which you probably could spot from your cell’s outside window.(providing they don’t stuff you in solitary for bad manners.)

First of all, the “one phone call” from the police station is a myth. If it’s extended at all, it’s a courtesy. In many jails, there is a pay phone available, if it’s not broken.

There are criminal lawyers who do “rounds” in the jails to drum up business. You could always go that route, if necessary.

Or, you could just keep your nose clean and remain a fine, upstanding citizen. :slight_smile:

Robin, who wishes she didn’t know this stuff.

In the UK, you are provided with a crappy lawyer free of charge unless you have better, more sensible plans. I’ve never been actually arrested but I know the “one phone call” thing is rubbish here. You can use a pay phone or you mobile (cell phone for my American friends) providing you can be trusted with it and you’ve not already been put in a cell and you aren’t really drunk and you co-operate with the fuzz and say please.

The police will mostly be reasonable if you will.

IANAL, etc.

The magic phrase to remember if you are ever taken into police custody, or are being questioned by the police or believe yourself to be a suspect in any way is “I want a lawyer.” From the ACLU’s “bust card”:

At this point, with the possible exception of “The police may not listen to the call to the lawyer” (under the “USA PATRIOT Act” law enforcement may monitor communications between lawyer and client under some circumstances) the above is I believe still correct and accurate.

This statement may veer into GD territory, but my personal feeling is that you shouldn’t ever answer any questions or cooperate with the police beyond the absolute bare minimum required by law. The police aren’t your friends and they don’t care about you. They’re interested in clearing cases and it’s been my experience that many of them don’t particularly care that the person they hang the case on is the person who actually did the crime. The police will lie and cheat to elicit information from you. If you’re innocent, don’t help them build a phony case against you. If you’re guilty, don’t help them prove it.

I think it would usually be a good idea to state shock at being arrested and to protest it, to ask what one is being arrested for and to deny it, and then to clam up and insist on a lawyer. Then when the trial comes around, police notes of such immediate and unrehearsed denial can be used as an indication that you really did not do the dirty deed.

Surely go for the Yellow Pages - Attorneys, Criminal Defense. Depending on the size of the town, there’s probably several who take calls 24-hours a day. Not many years ago, the phone book was the only place that attorneys were allowed to advertise. It’s a great resource.

And I’ll repeat the gist of Otto’s last post: Don’t talk to the police without first speaking with an attorney. Give them your name and whatever other information they request to establish your identity, but DO NOT try and explain what happened, why you’re innocent, what you were doing instead, or anything else for that matter.


I forgot to say IANAL.

Carry on.

You’re in jail? Look around the cell for the biggest, meanest, ugliest dude there…someone whose surely been in and out of jail his entire life.

Ask him who HIS lawyer is.

That’s the guy you want defending you.

First, as someone else pointed out, I suspect that many arestees are allowed to consult the yellow pages.

My family name is very high in the alphabet, and I remember my father getting a call or two in the middle of the night on the basis of his phone book entry.

One other point: Never discuss your case with other detainees. Many of them are “jail-house snitches” who will testify against you, and make stuff up about what you said, in hopes of lightening their own punishment.

I’d prefer a lawyer who was better at keeping his clients out of jail! :slight_smile:

Go make your will or some other legal document and get your name on a lawyers list. Call him every 3 years to keep your name current. Make friends with a lawyer at a cocktail party, BBQ or whatever. If you all of a sudden say “Hey they just arrested me for holding up the First Nat’l Bank!” That is too late to be intimate with your lawyer. I hate lawyers, but I’ve got a damn good one that I’ve dealt with for 20+ years and he’s the one I’d call. This comes under the heading of CYA or “it isn’t who you blow, it is who you know.”

I’m gonna jump back in and echo what Otto said above. Also, when you do ask for a lawyer, make a clear and unequivocal statement, preferably something like “I will not say another word without a lawyer present!” Also, say it loud, almost to the point of shouting. And when you say it, look directly at the police. Do not look at the ceiling, your shoes, their shoes, etc. This way, the cops can’t claim “you didn’t really ask for a lawyer.” Otto’s right, the cops aren’t your friends, and they really don’t give a rat’s butt if you’re guilty or not. They want to get the file closed and off their desk as quickly as they can, and not a lot of them care about how that gets done. If the wrong guy gets convicted, well, that’s just another file that’s off their desk; no skin off their nose.

The easiest way to stay out of trouble? Keep your yap shut.

Sorry if I sound kind of bitter. My first husband is doing time for a crime that he didn’t commit, and the issue with his asking for a lawyer was one of the things keeping him in prison. :frowning:


They assume you are.

No, they want to nail some poor bastard, just because they can. If they really wanted to close the case, they wouldn’t open it to begin with.

This can not be emphasized enough.

Sorry to hear that. My brother is now a felon because of some “overzealous” cops who provided false testimony.