Oftentimes new clients come to us asking if they can be arrested on words alone. These are usually cases where the allegation is simply someone’s words telling police that an offense occurred. Is this enough evidence, words alone, for police or a judge to believe that an offense may have taken place? Is this enough evidence for an arrest?
Remember that the standard of proof or level of evidence for an arrest is only “probable cause.” Probable Cause is legally defined as:
“reasonable belief, based on facts that can be articulated, that is required to arrest and prosecute a person in criminal court. Before a person can be arrested and prosecuted, the police and prosecutor must possess enough facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the claim or charge is true.”
As you can see, “probable cause” is a very low burden. It is NOT proof beyond a reasonable doubt which is the burden of proof required to obtain a conviction.
Silence is Golden
I will tell you what I tell my “kids” (now young adults) that if they should ever come in contact with law enforcement. It is important to be respectful, but to not argue the case “on the street.” This means that an arrest is likely to occur. However, we can sort it out later in court. In slang, this is known as “you may beat the rap but not the ride.”
What happens if a client starts to argue his or her position or side of the story at the time of the arrest without a lawyer’s assistance? The client may unknowingly say something that could legally hurt the defense. Sometimes clients’ words may be misunderstood or taken the wrong way. Once a statement is out there and recorded, it is very difficult to walk that back or change it and still have credibility. The DA may say to me, “If what you’re telling me is true, then why did you client say….?”
Hire a Lawyer
By the time you go to court with a lawyer, you have had time to calm down. You have had time to reflect on everything. You have time to assist your lawyer in obtaining documentation or proof of what was really happening at the time of the allegation.
Some items we use to back-up our clients’ stories include the following: 1) screenshots of text messages, 2) phone records, 3) photographs, and 4) witness statements from folks not interviewed by law enforcement.
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. Every case is different. Sometimes we have proof of prior situations like abusive relationships or domestic violence injuries. Sometimes we have proof of prior threats made to our clients. What could likely be self defense may be mistaken as an assault at the time of the arrest.
Best Thing to Do
So what is the best thing to do when being investigated by the police? The best thing you can do is keep quiet, take the arrest, make bond and hire a lawyer. Let your lawyer work out the details with you before going to court.
When Hiring a Lawyer…
When you hire a lawyer, you are paying for a representative. Choose someone who is well-trained in the law. Interview with multiple lawyers before finally retaining an attorney. Is this not one of the most important matters in your life? Wouldn’t you want to hire someone who you trust to be your voice and stand up for your rights?
The Answer Is…
So back to the original question, “can I be arrested on a verbal allegation alone?” The answer is “Yes.”
Does that mean that you will be convicted of the allegation? The answer is “No.”
Are you in need of an aggressive defense with a compassionate lawyer who has your best interests at heart? Call JL. 713.201.6767.