What to Do When You’re Arrested for a Crime You Didn’t Commit

The steps to take and places to turn when you’re innocent in Oregon

People are arrested and charged with crimes in Oregon every day. Many of these accused individuals are innocent. Unfortunately, simply protesting your innocence to the police or a prosecutor is unlikely to put an end to the matter.

Even worse, many people panic when they are arrested and take drastic actions that will only hurt their case going forward. Such panic is understandable. After all, if you have never been through the Oregon criminal justice process, you do not know what to expect or how to properly conduct yourself.

While every criminal case is different, here are some basic tips to keep in the event you find yourself under arrest.

Remember You Have the Right to Remain Silent

Anyone who has ever watched a television police drama has heard the famous Miranda warning, which begins with the admonition, “You have the right to remain silent.” This is not just for show. Under the U.S. and Oregon state constitutions, a person may not be compelled to give testimony against themselves. This applies not just to trial but any questioning by law enforcement. When a police detective asks you about a crime, you do not have to answer. While many people think that silence will only “incriminate them more,” the reality is that you are more likely to get into trouble by lying to the police than by saying nothing. And even if you are innocent, if the police think they have enough evidence to make an arrest, nothing you say is likely to change their mind.

Always Be Respectful, and Never Resist Arrest

This is where a lot of innocent people get into trouble. Most people are outraged when they are falsely accused of a crime. But this outrage cannot turn physical. In other words, you can never resist arrest or take any physical action against the police. For one thing, the police will fight back–and in some cases, this leads to the use of deadly force. Additionally, you can be charged with resisting arrest separately from the original crime. So your best bet is to always be respectful of the police, follow any lawful commands they issue, and keep in mind the advice above–observe your right to remain silent when questioned.

You Need to Contact a Lawyer ASAP

The one time you should speak to the police following an arrest is to ask for a lawyer. This is the other part of the Miranda warning–you have the right to an attorney. If for any reason you cannot afford an attorney, or maybe you simply don't know how to contact one, the government is required to provide a public defender.

Some people put off calling a lawyer because they think it will “escalate” the situation. After all, only a guilty person would hire a lawyer? Such thinking is counterproductive. Once again, if the police have placed you under arrest, it is because they already think you did something wrong. Hiring a lawyer will not make them any more suspicious. More to the point, an experienced Oregon criminal defense lawyer can walk you through the criminal justice process in detail, review the facts of your case, and provide you with a strategy for fighting your case in court. 

For more information on this area of law, see our overview of criminal defense.

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