When Are You Under Arrest?
Under Connecticut law, a police officer may make an arrest without a warrant under a variety of circumstances, most notably when the arresting officer has reasonable grounds to believe that an offense has been committed, or is in the process of being committed. As a consequence, the majority of arrests involving crimes that do not take place in the home are conducted without a warrant ever being issued.
Since most arrests take place without benefit of a warrant, it is important to know when an arrest has actually occurred in order to invoke the many important rights trigged by the act of arrest. As a general rule, you are arrested whenever a law enforcement officer takes you into custody or otherwise deprives you of your freedom of movement in any significant way.
In fact, you may be under arrest even though no one has actually used the word “arrest” or any comparable word. The fact that you have been deprived of your freedom of movement in some significant manner may amount legally to an arrest.
Under some circumstances a citizen has a limited power to conduct an arrest.
May a Law Enforcement Officer Detain You Without Arresting You?
Based upon reasonable suspicion that you may be involved in criminal activity, a police officer may detain you and require you to identify your self and explain your whereabouts at a particular time without arresting you. The officer may not, however, remove you from the immediate vicinity without making an arrest unless you voluntarily accompany the officer to some other location.
If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you are armed or that you may be dangerous to him or her or others, the officer may conduct a limited pat-down of your outer garments for the purpose of detecting weapons.
If this “frisk” results in the officer’s reasonable belief that you are carrying a weapon, the officer may remove the suspicious object for the purpose of protecting him or herself. The officer must return to you any lawful object unless you are placed under arrest. Unless you are under arrest, the frisk or search is limited to the suspect’s weapons.
The officer may ask you some questions in order to complete the field investigation. You have a constitutional right not to answer them, but it is nonetheless advisable to provide your name and address, as your failure to do so may suggest to the officer that criminal activity is afoot. More-over, there is an infraction law requiring you to produce your license and registration to an officer when he or she stops a motor vehicle you are operating.
At the conclusion of the temporary detention, the officer must either arrest you or let you go. Ordinarily, such temporary detention should not exceed 20 minutes.
If you should enter a retail establishment where goods are placed on display for sale, the merchant or employees may detain you on the premises for a reasonable time for questioning if they have probable cause to believe that you have stolen or have attempted to steal goods for sale.
Under such circumstances a police officer called to the scene may make an arrest for shoplifting even though an alleged offense was not committed in his or her presence.
What Are Your Rights After You Are Arrested?
An arrest triggers a number of constitutional protections which must be afforded by the arresting officer.
- You have the right to know the crime or crimes with which you have been charged.
- You have the right to know the identity of the policeman with whom you are dealing.
- You have the right to communicate by telephone with your attorney, family, your friends, or a bondsman after you have been brought to the police station and booking procedures are completed.
- You have the right to be represented by an attorney at all critical stages of you case, including police questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you free of charge provided you qualify under existing guidelines as an insolvent person.
Remember, constitutional rights may be waived or given up voluntarily. Before you say or sign anything that might result in a waiver of a constitutional right, make sure you consult with an attorney.
What Rights Do You Have When Questioned By Police?
It is essential to understand that you are under absolutely no compulsion to co-operate with the police in any way should they begin questioning you about a crime for which you have been arrested, or any other crime.
You have an absolute right to remain silent. If you choose to speak, anything you say can and will be used you in a court. If you decide to answer any questions, you may stop at any time and all questioning must cease.
- You have the right to consult with your attorney before answering any questions.
- You have the right to have your attorney present if you decide to answer any questions, and if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you or appointed for you by the court without cost to you, before any further questions may be asked.
What Should You Say?
The simple answer is that you should not say anything to anyone concerning any aspect of the offense with which you have been charged except, of course, to your attorney. You cannot be legally be required or forced by a police officer or anyone else to talk, to answer questions, or sign any papers.
If by threats, by persistent questions, or by other means of coercion, you are forced to give incriminating information, its use against you can be prevented in court.
Certain official parties, such as the bail commissioner, may, in the course of their duties, inquire as to certain aspects of your conduct in connection with the allegations being made. Politely refuse to respond until you have had a chance to talk to an attorney.
You may be required to provide certain non-testimonial evidence. In particular, you may be required to participate in a lineup, to prepare a sample of your penmanship, to speak phrases associated with the crime with which you are charged, to don certain wearing apparel, or give a sample of your hair.
You should ask to have a absolute right to counsel if you are asked to participate in a lineup, after you have been formally charged by the prosecuting attorney.
You may also be required to be fingerprinted and photographed.
How Do You Arrange For a Lawyer?
If you do not know a lawyer in the area where you have been arrested and have no lawyer in your home town whom you would call, you may contact your county or city Bar Association for the name of an attorney on the lawyer referral list.
Any attorney you contact will be happy to discuss fees with you and give you some idea of the cost involved. Normally, you have a right to a written fee agreement that outlines the basis of the fee and the scope of the matter to be handled by the attorney.
If you cannot afford a private lawyer, you should advise the judge of this fact at your first appearance or as soon as after that is possible. The judge will ask you some questions to see if you are eligible for the services of an attorney at public expense. You will probably be asked to make a sworn statement as to your inability to afford a private attorney.
Release After Arrest
Except for an arrest to an extremely serious offense, e.g. capital offenses, the Connecticut and United States Constitution provide that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall have aright to be released on an amount of bail which is sufficient to assure your appearance in court.
Bail is generally defined in some type or amount of security that releases the arrested person and insures that person’s future attendance in court.
If you are arrested for a less serious offense, for example a misdemeanor where the penalty may be one year or less in jail, the police officer may give you written summons and complaint and allow a less restrictive form of release, such as a promise to appear or a non – surety bond, and give you a specific date to appear in court.
If you are arrested on a more serious offense, such as a felony, which is punishable by more than a year in jail, or if the police officer feels that you will not appear in court, the officer will take you to the police station. At the station, the police officer may use any of the forms of release procedures outlined below.
Types of release procedures are as follows :
Written Promise To Appear In Court
· A. With non-financial conditional
· B. Without conditions
This allows arrested person to be released upon their promise that they will appear in a court on the specific date scheduled.
Non – Surety Bond
This is a promise by you to pay a specified amount if you fail to appear at court on your scheduled trial date.
This is a specific monetary amount set to insure your appearance in court on a specific date. This specific amount of money can be posted to insure your release. This amount may be paid by cash posted by you, your relatives or friends.
If your relatives or friends cannot provide enough money to meet the amount of money of the surety bond, you may contact a professional bondperson(s) to provide surety for that amount. The bondperson(s) charges a fee for posting of the bond.
The amount of fee is established by law. The bondperson(s) may also require some type of security for posting of that bond, such as a car, house or other property. Names of bondperson(s) are available at the police station and you have the right to contact one.
These methods of release are available to insure your release at the police station. If at the police station, the police do not release you on a promise to appear in court, a non-surety bond, or you cannot obtain funds or a bondperson(s) to post a surety bond, you then have a right to be interviewed by a bail commissioner.
The police are required by statute to notify the bail commissioner of your inability to post the bond set by them. The bail commissioner is a court employee whose job it is to afford arrested persons an opportunity to be released from jail if unable to post the bond set by the police, provided that he or she is convinced that you will appear in court.
He or she can recommend that the police change their decision and release you on a promise to appear, a non surety-bond or a surety bond in a smaller amount. The bail commissioner’s recommendation is still subject to being overruled by a state’s attorney if challenged by the police. The bail commissioner can also leave the police’s decision the same if he or she thinks it is reasonable. Since the bail commissioner is a state employee, you do not have to pay a fee.
You cannot be denied bail under our Constitution. This means that, if the police or the bail commissioner do not release you on a promise to appear or a non-surety bond, then they must then set an amount for a surety.
If, after the bail commissioner’s interview, you still cannot meet the terms of release, you will be held at the police station and brought before the court on the next available day for a review of bond. There are procedures established to conduct a review of the circumstances of your arrest as they relate to the bond set by the police or the bail commissioner. You will not appear before the court if it is within this non-court session review.
Once before the court, you or your attorney can present to the court information to reduce the amount of the surety bond or allow you to be released upon the promise to appear or non-surety bond.
The factors which the police, bail commissioner, and the court consider in your release decision are:
· Your Ties to the Community
This means how long you have lived in the area, whether you have a steady job, a family and similar matters. These will give the police, bail commissioner or court an indication as to whether you will appear in court
· Whether the Safety of any Other Person will be Endangered by your Release
· Nature of the Offense With Which You are Charged
· Your Prior Criminal Record
· Your Prior Record of Appearances in Court
Additionally, the Connecticut Legislature has adopted a preventative detention law that authorizes a judge to revoke your existing bail and deny you bail under certain circumstances.
In certain circumstances, the court may allow you, your relatives or friends to post 10 % of the bond with the clerk’s office. This amount of money is returnable at the conclusion of the case as long as you appear for each court date. In addition, the court may allow you to post real estate as security for your release.
These procedures are only available with the court’s approval and the posting of a real estate bond usually requires the assistance of an attorney.
No matter how you are released, if you do not appear in court, a warrant for your arrest will be issued and you can be charged with an additional crime of failure to appear. If you do not appear in court and you have posted a bond, you or the bondperson(s) may have to pay the amount of the bond to the state.
Your Appearance In Court
Your first appearance in the court is called an arraignment, at which time you have the right to have an attorney represent you. If you do not have an attorney at that time, the prosecutor or the judge will continue your case to allow you obtain counsel. If you are unable to afford an attorney, you should seek out the Public Defender’s Office which is staffed with attorneys.
If you financially qualify for their services, the court will appoint a public defender as your attorney. The fee for the Public Defender’s services is twenty-five dollars ($25.00) which fee can be waived under certain circumstances. While at the courthouse, use caution when speaking to anybody about the case, because anything you say to anyone except your attorney can be used against you.
For those people who have never been convicted (found guilty) of a crime, there are a number of programs available for first-time offenders. Please be advised that all of these diversionary programs are discretionary with the court after a hearing on the case. You may, therefore, wish to consult with an attorney before applying for a particular program. The following four (4) programs represent some, but not all, of these pre-trial diversionary programs:
Alcohol Education Program
If you are charged with Operating While Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, and you have never been convicted of Operating Under the Influence in Connecticut or any other state and you have never previously used the Alcohol Education Program, then you may be eligible for the Alcohol Education Program.
This is a one year program with required classes and possible counseling. A non refundable fee is required to participate in this program. If this program is successfully completed, the charges will be dismissed.
If you are charged with a crime(s) not of a serious nature, and you have never been convicted of a crime in this state or any other state and have not utilized certain other diversionary programs, you may be eligible for the Accelerated Pretrial Rehabilitation Program, which is a pre-trial program, carrying a period of probation of up to two (2) years. A non-refundable fee is required to participate in this program. If successfully completed, the charge(s) will be dismissed.
Family Violence Education Program
If you are charged with a domestic violence offense, you should check with the Family Relations Office in order to determine whether you qualify for the Family Violence Education Program, a program of up to two (2) years with an education component, which could keep you from a criminal record if successfully completed.
With respect to any of these programs, it is solely within the discretion of the judge hearing your case as to whether or not you are a suitable candidate for the particular program and you may wish to have an attorney represent you. All three programs, if granted and thereafter successfully completed, enable the defendant to apply for dismissal of the charges. However, once you have used a particular program, you are forever barred from using it again.
Community Service Labor Program
If you are charged with the possession of marijuana or possession of narcotics, and you have never before been convicted of certain drug offenses, then you may be eligible for the Community Service Labor Program.
If granted, the applicant must agree to perform community service with an approved, non-profit charitable organization. If the program is successfully completed, the possession charge will be dismissed. There is a limitation on the availability of this program.
Youthful Offender Status
If you are a youth between the ages of 16 and 17, you may be eligible for Youthful Offender Status. If adjudged a youthful offender, you would not be convicted of a “crime”. You could, however, be committed to prison and / or pay a fine for being a Youthful Offender.
If you successfully complete a court imposed sentence as a Youthful Offender, the court may erase the record of your arrest and prosecution when you reach age 21.
Record of Arrest
If you are found not guilty of a charge for which you are arrested, or the charge is dismissed by the court, the law requires that all records of your arrest and prosecution be “erased” twenty (20) days after the dismissal. This does not mean the records are destroyed, but the clerk of the court and the police may not give information about your arrest to anyone.
If the prosecutor “nolles” a charge for which you where arrested (that is, if he or she decides not to prosecute the case), all records of your arrest are also “erased,” but not until 13 months after the nolle has entered.