When someone you care about gets arrested it’s natural to feel paralyzed. How did this happen? What should you do?
How can you help?
If you are committed to doing so there are quite a few ways you can help an accused loved one.
Help them find a lawyer.
Many defendants forget to ask for lawyers. The police have a variety of tricks to manipulate suspects both into forfeiting their rights. They’re also very good at extracting false confessions: 25% of people who were later exonerated gave a false confession.
If you are present when the loved one is arrested remind them not to talk and tell them you will get them a lawyer. Remind them not to speak until the lawyer is present. The police may not be too quick to let your loved one get on the phone with one. You can quickly call a private lawyer and send them down to the police station. You’ll take one worry off the defendant’s mind, and you’ll make sure his or her rights are protected.
Point your loved one’s lawyer in the direction of exculpatory evidence.
Lawyers are not omniscient. We do our best to find exculpatory evidence, but we weren’t anywhere near the defendant’s life before their case started.
If you know someone who can corroborate an alibi, help us out by giving us their name and number. If you have information that could point to an alternative suspect, tell us that too. You can always ask what might be helpful or what we might need.
Remember, police aren’t omniscient either. They only “always get their man” on television. An arrest is not proof your loved one is guilty.
Help them post bail.
Once bail is set your loved one may well need some financial help. It’s a lot easier for you to choose a bail bondsman and to get that person paid than it is for a defendant sitting in a jail cell.
If you don’t have the funds yourself you may also be able to reach out to other family members or friends who are willing to put up a little money. Remember, pre-trial detention can cause a 13% to 30% increase in convictions. Helping your loved one post bail is one of the ways you can have a direct impact on their chance to receive an acquittal.
Help them get necessary medical and psychiatric care.
It can be difficult for loved ones to receive necessary medications in jail. If your loved one takes prescription medications you can help by bringing the prescriptions and informing the staff at the jail.
Your loved one also has the right to discuss medication with prison staff, but sometimes they’re too stressed to do so. In addition, sometimes it’s harder to get guards to listen to them. A little calm conversation from the outside can make all the difference.
Get support for yourself.
Make no mistake, you’re going through this too. If your arrested loved one was the primary breadwinner in the home you may be facing new financial concerns. Your family’s reputation may be impacted by the arrest. And whether your loved one is guilty or innocent, there will be some grief to work through.
Find a therapist or a support group to help guide you through this process. It helps to be around other people who understand your situation and who won’t judge you through it. Working through your emotions with others can help you make clear-headed decisions about how you’ll handle your loved one’s brush with the law.
Indeed, your loved one may be just as concerned for how you’re faring as you are for how he or she is doing. Knowing you are coping and taking care of matters may be just as helpful to him or her as all the other steps you may be taking.