You might never expect a call from someone in jail. However, when it happens, it can be startling, and you may not know what to do. The person on the other end of the line probably never expected to be there either, but they called you for a reason. Perhaps it’s a close friend…or your husband, son, wife, or daughter. 

If your loved one calls you, you may be tempted to get upset or try to figure out what really happened. You may have feelings of anger toward them for breaking your trust in some way. Don’t let your emotions and curiosity get the best of you. All that needs to be pushed aside for the moment. They don’t need criticism – they need your help.

The first thing you can do to help them is to remain calm. Being taken to jail will rattle anyone, and rest assured, your loved one is already rattled. Maybe they were woken up by police banging on their door in the middle of the night. Perhaps they were in a violent situation when they were arrested. 

No matter the circumstance of the arrest, if you yell, it will only increase their anxiety and degrade them in front of other inmates or police officers. Phone calls made from jail will always be made in front of others, so you don’t want to force them into defending themselves or talking about the details. Instead, tell them you will help them get through it. Ask them to calmly tell you exactly what facility they are in what the police said they arrested them for.  

It is completely fine for them to repeat what the police officers said and did. This is where you can best offer your support. You can inform the criminal defense attorney of these details including the name of the police officer if you have it. If there were multiple departments at the scene of the arrest, that is also important to note. For example, it may be important for the attorney to know that Drug Enforcement Agency or Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms officers were there for the search warrant or on hand for the arrest. 

The most important thing they can say is nothing other than they want to speak to a lawyer. You can have them repeat it with you – “I don’t want to answer any questions. I only want to speak to a lawyer.

Another way to support them is by getting money into their account right away for phone cards or other items. Your loved one will have lots of questions and thoughts that come to them randomly throughout the day, as they have almost nothing else to do but think. If they can purchase a pencil and paper and make phone calls, it will help them organize their thoughts and feel a little more human. Figuring out how to deposit funds is not always quick and easy, but it will mean a lot once they are able to access the funds. Don’t hesitate to find out how to get that started. Even more importantly, don’t hesitate to call a criminal defense attorney immediately after their call. 

A defense attorney may want to go to the facility immediately and may be able to intervene prior to questioning. They will also be able to advise your loved on before they are asked to submit to any drug or alcohol tests. All these steps will help your loved one have a chance at the best outcome for their situation. Follow the list below and on the video if you ever find yourself in this situation. 

  1. Remain Calm
  2. Do NOT ask what happened…assume the call is being recorded and anyone your loved one says will be used against them. Ask what reason did the officer give for arresting you?
  3. Ask where they are being held. Get the full name of the facility and the address if possible.
  4. Urge your loved one to remain silent. Tell them to say only “I don’t want to answer questions. I only want to talk to a lawyer. Make them repeat it back to you. “I don’t want to answer questions. I only want to talk to a lawyer.
  5. Reassure your loved one they are not alone and won’t be abandoned.
  6. Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney and tell them where your loved one is being held. The attorney may want to go to the facility immediately and speak with your loved one and perhaps disrupt or avoid altogether, the police interrogation.

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