Do They Have To Tell Me What I Am Being Arrested For?

By Jedidiah McKeehan

Occasionally I will talk with a potential client on the phone and they will tell me they would like to hire me to represent them in regard to their criminal charges.

One of my first questions is, “What are your charges?” More often than you would think, the potential client will tell me, “I don’t know, they wouldn’t tell me what they were arresting me for even though I asked.” While this may be shocking to hear, this happens all of the time.

The U.S. Supreme Court has stated that it is “good police practice” to tell people why they are being arrested, however, there is no legal requirement that I am aware of that the police are required to inform you of the charges on which you are being arrested.

We are all accustomed to watching the TV show where the cops break down a door, tackle the bad guy, and tell him he is being arrested for the murder of Mrs. Smith. That is not how it occurs in real life.

The cops will often arrest someone and they may not have decided what crimes they want to charge the person with. They may arrest someone initially for a domestic assault and then decide on the way to jail, “Okay, I’m also going to charge them with resisting arrest, public intoxication, theft of property, etc.”

So, when these people call me and tell me they do not know their charges, I believe them, but I also know that there are ways for them to have found out before calling me.  Why do I say that? Well, if they were arrested, then their charges would typically care a bond requirement, and if they are out of jail when they are talking to me then they have been bonded out of jail, likely with the help of a bail bondsman. Bail bondsman absolutely have the ability to tell them with what they are charged.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including divorce, custody, criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com.

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