Your alarm clock goes off at 7:00 AM on a Monday morning and you slowly hit the snooze button a few times to get a little more sleep before you must get up for work. You had a very busy weekend and did not catch up on your sleep. Although you’re tempted to call into work and fake being sick when you wake up, you decide that you’ll postpone that idea for another time (Lol).
Bills are due this upcoming paycheck and you can’t afford to miss a day’s worth of work in your paycheck. So, you drag yourself out of bed and into the bathroom to brush your teeth and shower before getting dressed.
You don’t feel like cooking breakfast, so you call ahead and place a Pick-up order at your local breakfast restaurant. You figure that you can eat in your car in the parking lot before work. You consider just waiting to eat lunch on break, but you must make important phone calls that will take up a lot of your lunch break time, so you opt to have breakfast instead and will eat a light snack at lunch.
You look at the time on your cell phone and it’s 8:30 AM. You remember that traffic is a little heavier in your area due to ongoing construction work. So, you gather your personal and work belongings and rush towards the door to leave.
On the way out of the door, your cell phone rings and you do not recognize the phone number, but you decide to answer it anyways. It’s a collect call from a close family member from the county jail and you accept the call. Your close family member has just informed you that they have been arrested over the weekend and decided to call you for help.
What do you do when you get a phone call that someone you know has been arrested???
Typically, we may not be faced with a scenario like this on a regular basis. Although no one usually plans to be arrested, sometimes the unexpected happens and people can end up being arrested and taken to jail. So, unless your friend, family member, or loved one is constantly breaking the law, caught or is connected to ongoing criminal activities, or ends up with police involvement that lands them in jail, then receiving a call from someone who has been arrested may not be a regular occurrence for you. Keep in mind that when someone is arrested, guilt or innocence in a court of law has not yet been determined.
If you are surprisingly or shockingly faced with a situation where a family member, friend, loved one, or someone you know gets arrested and contacts you, then what are some of the things you can do and steps you can take to help them?
1. Remain calm, do not panic, and get over-emotional.
Your feelings may be all over the place and you may have a lot of unanswered questions, but it is more helpful if you do not allow your emotions to uncontrollably get out of hand so that you are able to think clearly to make good decisions in order to be useful for your loved one who got arrested. You may be fearful or anxious after receiving the news that your family member, friend, or loved one has been arrested, but your main goal will be to find out as much information as possible to see if you are able to assist the arrested with getting out of jail. You can choose to reserve some time to process the situation and deal with your emotions at more appropriate places and times. You may not want to be overly emotional in front of children as it may frighten them or make them anxious. You can also schedule a time to sit young children down and explain the situation to them in an age-appropriate manner. For example, if their dad is arrested and accused of a crime unless it has been aired on the news and no innocence or guilt has been determined, then you may want to tell them that their dad is in jail, you plan on helping him as best you can, and you have to find out more information. If you have children in common with the arrested, then explain to your children that their dad or loved one being in jail does not mean that they are guilty and that they are being held in jail until they complete their court dates and are released or must serve time in prison. Remember to give them an age-appropriate explanation and be prepared to answer their questions appropriately.
2. If you know that you will not be able to help the arrested (immediately), then offer to write down the contact names and phone numbers they provide you of others who may be able to help them (sooner than you can).
Contact the people whose name you were given to inform them of the news about the arrested as soon as you can. If you are not able to help the arrested right away and depending on what time you get out of work, you may want to communicate with the arrested that you will not be available to help them until you get out of work.
3. If you decide to help someone you know who has been arrested in a scenario like the above, we do not condone faking sickness, playing hooky, or committing a No Call – No Show from work to deal with a scenario like the above.
You do not want to jeopardize and lose your job and make the situation bad or worse for yourself. I suggest using more constructive and legitimate options such as promptly contacting your boss or supervisor as soon as possible and reporting that an emergency and circumstances beyond your control came up that you’re going to take care of or be late to work. If you receive Paid Time Off or personal days that accrue, see if you will be able to have that time deducted from your “bank” and still get the time you missed paid to you in your check if that is how things work at your job. If not, you may be faced with your check being smaller than usual for the time you missed to help the arrested. If you have young children, you will need to make sure that things are squared away with a trusted and responsible childcare provider or for them to get to and from school while you help the arrested. Keep in mind of how the effects of keeping them with you can emotionally play out on you and them when you are helping the arrested. If the arrested has children and you are unable to care for them while he/she is in jail, ask them if they will be able to stay with a trusted and responsible relative or friend who can care for them.
4. Find out the local, state, or federal police agency that arrested and the facility your family member, friend, or loved one is in when they were arrested and charged without asking for details.
If you received the news from a trusted family member, friend, or loved one that someone you know has been arrested and you decide to help, then you can place a phone call to the jail and confirm your family member, friend, or loved one’s arrest. If it is confirmed that they have been arrested (and you angrily or otherwise feel like the charges are bogus or unjustifiable), then do not go to the police precinct or courthouse behaving disorderly or belligerently. The arrested may have not been to trial where innocence or guilt has been determined by a jury or all the facts of the case have not been disclosed. Plus, you may risk making the situation worse for yourself and it does not do anything to get your loved one released.
5. Can you post bail for them?
Find out if the arrested has bail. Sometimes, someone is locked up with no bail. If the arrested has bail and you cannot afford to post the whole thing, then consider contacting a licensed bonding company where you live if bail is set and to find out information about bail bonds. Research nationwide bail bond companies if you are unable to locate one where you live. If there is no bail, then see if the arrested is interested in having you handle their personal affairs for them or contacting someone else to handle their personal affairs.
6. Find out if you can get a “first time” unscheduled visit.
Get as many specific details as possible from the arrested while preserving the right to remain silent and not risk anything done or said that may be used against him/her or is incriminating. Discuss any charges and arrest details with the arrested during any first-time visit as well as any specific instructions they ask you to handle for them.
7. If you find out that the arrested will not be released immediately, then ask the arrested if they can afford a criminal defense lawyer.
If not, they may be assigned a public defender if they are held until any charges are disposed of or taken to trial. Remind them that they have the right to remain silent (5th amendment).
8. Find out arraignment and court dates and times and attend, if possible.
Although your attendance in court may not secure their release, it can give the arrested an emotional boost and a positive feeling of support to see your face in the courtroom. Plus, you will be able to get firsthand information about their case.
9. If you are a trusted family member, friend, or loved one to the arrested, then offer to secure their personal belongings and property and handle their personal affairs if they are not immediately released.
You may offer to take preventive measures and ask them if they would like to establish you or someone else as their power-of-attorney to be able to handle their personal and/or business affairs. Each state may have their own legal requirements so you may want to consider consulting with a lawyer from the state the arrested is in if you are not familiar with drafting and finalizing a Power of Attorney document. The arrested can risk losing their home through foreclosure or apartment or dwelling through eviction along with personal items and important documents if they do not have someone to help them while they are in jail, are not immediately released, and are held for a length of time. They may need to have someone secure important documents like birth certificates for them and any children, social security cards, etc., that are in their apartment or house. They may also need someone to do regular visits to check on the surroundings of their house or apartment, to collect mail, and prevent any burglars from detecting that no one is there. Becoming a power-of-attorney for the arrested may allow you to contact their landlord or mortgage company, bill collectors, and conduct banking transactions, etc. if they get locked up. If the arrested has a job, find out from an employment lawyer as the power of attorney if you can legally apply for a leave of absence on behalf of the arrested if they are going to be held in jail for a brief period so they won’t lose their job. This may or may not be possible depending on the employer’s policies and the state and/or local laws where they live and/or are locked up in. Although the idea of applying for a leave of absence for the arrested may sound far-fetched, you won’t know all his/her legal options and the answers to your questions unless you ask a criminal lawyer or seek professional advice.
10. Stay in touch with the arrested if they are not immediately released.
Keep the arrested informed about any helpful information that you find out that can help them. Make visits and write letters, as much as possible and send care packages, if you can.
11. See if the arrested has access to the jail commissary and/or drop off facility-approved personal items for them, if possible.
The arrested may be held in jail for weeks or months or more. You may be able to drop off socks, tee shirts, or other correctional facility-approved items for them. Be sure to check with the jail or correctional facility they're in for rules and guidelines on inmate care packages.
12. Contact any local support and/or advocacy groups that may offer legal aid and/or advice or share your feelings and concerns with other trusted friends or mental health therapists.
A support system and access to experts, professionals, and resources are important during this time. It can be helpful for you and the incarcerated to get as much support and (legal) information as possible about what is going on.
13. Mentally prepare for various outcomes whether the arrested is released or not.
There is the possibility that an investigation turns up what is deemed enough evidence for a criminal case to be opened and the arrested will not be immediately released. A plea bargain or settlement may occur or the arrested may end up serving time in prison. The incident that caused the arrest of your family, friend, or loved one may change the relationship between you two depending on what they are charged with or end up going to trial for. If they are found guilty and the charges are egregious, then you may want to consider how you will deal with the situation.
14. If they are released from jail and you wish to support them, continue to be a good support system to them.
Encourage the arrested to stay on top of attending all their court dates until the case ends and they are released or sentenced. If you do not mind attending court dates, you may want to decide if you will attend their court dates as support and gain knowledge of the charges, presented facts, and judicial system process.
15. If you decide to remain supportive of them, then encourage them to stay positive and find ways to mentally cope with the outcome whether the outcome turns out in their favor or not.
There is the possibility that your family member, friend, or loved one may not be released back into society eventually or at all. They may be sentenced to serve prison time if they are found guilty of what they were charged with. Ultimately, it is a good idea for anyone to do their due diligence ahead of time and learn about the arrest process and judicial system. While no one plans on getting arrested, a good rule of thumb for anyone who is arrested is to remember that you have a right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself.
The arrest of someone that you know can cause many emotions like shock, fear, anger, etc. It is important to remain emotionally in control and try to help the arrested as best you can. Be of support to the arrested and seek support and resources for them if you cannot be there in the capacity that you would like. Be willing to learn about the details of their case and about the criminal justice system.
(Disclaimer: Any information on our Cell Block Legendz website and blog is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Seek legal or other professional advice before you decide to act or refrain from using this information.)
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