When a Loved One Gets Arrested: The TO DO List

It’s a phone call that no one wants to get. It comes at an odd hour from an unrecognized number, but the voice on the other end of the line is familiar: “It’s me. I’m in trouble. I got arrested.”

Unless you’re unlucky enough to have fielded this type of call before, this information is liable to make your head spin. It’s incredibly stressful to have a loved one who’s in trouble with the law. You’re bound to experience waves of competing emotions, including anger, fear and a paralyzing sense of anxiety. This is only natural.

Everybody Stay Calm
Take a deep breath. Even if you’re inclined to respond angrily, try your best to be supportive. As scary as it may be for you to receive this call, it’s far scarier for the person who’s in custody. Offer whatever comfort you can, and let your loved one know that you’re doing what you can for them on the outside. Advise them to remain calm and stay strong, and discourage them from discussing their situation with fellow inmates.

Loose Lips Sink Ships
We’re social creatures, predisposed to communicate and share our experiences with others, but when a loved one is incarcerated, it’s crucial to suppress this instinct. Generally speaking, it’s a very bad idea for someone who’s still locked up to discuss their case with anyone other than their attorney. This is because attorney/client communications are confidential, but anything else your loved one says can and will be used against them. Jail calls are not private. All of them are recorded and reviewed. This sounds paranoid, but it’s true, and it bears repeating. Jail calls are not private. All of them are recorded and reviewed. First-year interns with the Prosecutor’s Office routinely spend five-to-six hours a day listening to recorded calls, waiting for defendants to sink themselves with anything that can be construed as an “admission.” Do not talk about your loved one’s case on the phone. Likewise remind your loved one not to answer any questions or speak with police officers while in custody. The only exception is when their lawyer is present. In all other cases, silence is golden.

Reach Out
Almost every criminal case necessarily involves a certain degree of uncertainty, but if you need direct answers to simple, practical questions—like the bond amount, or the expected time of release—your best bet is probably to start by calling the jail. If the staff you speak to seems curt or otherwise surly, it’s important that you conduct yourself as politely as possible. This point applies not just to your language, but also to the frequency of your calls. Jail employees may not have any power over you personally, but they can certainly make life more difficult for your incarcerated loved one. Dealing with a family member’s arrest is undoubtedly stressful, but repeatedly calling the jail won’t solve any of your problems. In fact, it’s likely to create new ones. It’s best to try and stay on the staff’s good side while they continue to exercise total and complete control over your loved one’s physical body. The impression you make on the jail employees may well be the difference between a timely release and a “misplaced file” that leads to a few extra days in a cell.

  • Marion County/APC: 317-327-8009
  • Hamilton County: 317-776-9800
  • Shelby County: 317-392-6405
  • Hancock County: 317-477-1158
  • Hendricks County: 317-745-9332
  • Johnson County: 317-346-4716
  • Tippecanoe County: 765-423-1655
  • Boone County: 765-482-1412
  • Tipton County: 765-675-2111
  • Morgan County: 765-342-4303
  • Jackson County: 812-358-2141

Sweet Release
If you want to get your loved one out of jail before their case is resolved, you’ll need to take steps to get them released. In Indiana, this process usually falls into one of the following categories.

Own Recognizance: This type of release is appropriate where a Judge has determined that the defendant is neither a flight risk nor a threat to the community. No money payment is required. The trend is to treat most first-time, non-violent offenders in this way, but Judges enjoy a great deal of discretion. Don’t be discouraged if your loved one is not released on their own recognizance.

Cash Bond: If a bond is required, this is the kind you want. In some cases, the Judge sets a fixed amount of money that the defendant has to pay before they can be released (for OVWI offenders, this cash bond is consistently in the $150-$250 range). The money you pay to post bond is not forfeited—it will ultimately be put toward the defendant’s court fees. In the unlikely event that bond money remains once the case is resolved, that money will be returned to the person who posted it. Once the bond is set, it’s important to pay it as soon as possible. The release process will not begin until the bond is paid in full.

Surety Bond: When the Judge wants a bit more insurance that your loved one will show up to their next court date, the defendant will be required to get a bail bondsman involved. A surety bond can be a much greater sum of money than a cash bond, and you need to pay a reputable bondsman 10% of this amount in order to secure your loved one’s release. For example, if the Judge announces a $10,000 surety bond, you must pay a bondsman $1,000 before the defendant can get out of jail. This surety bond money does not go toward court costs—it goes directly to the bail bondsman. You will never get it back. If you fail to appear for your next court date, the bondsman is then on the hook for the remaining balance (in our example, $9,000). He will not be happy about this.

Hybrid Bond: Sometimes a Judge will issue a bond that’s a combination of both cash and surety, and the rules outlined above still apply. For example, if the Judge sets a $10,000 surety bond and a $1,000 cash bond, you’ll need to pay a total of $2,000: $1,000 (full cash bond) to the clerk (that can eventually be put toward court fees), and $1,000 (10% of the surety bond) to the bondsman (that you’ll never see again).

Demand the Best
Bondsmen, for better or for worse, are like any other group of professionals: some of them do an outstanding job, some of them are lazy, and most of them fall somewhere in middle. Obviously, when a loved one is sitting in jail, time is a significant factor. A bit of research, however, can make a big difference.

The same goes for choosing legal representation. Don’t just ask your bondsman for an attorney recommendation. These type of referrals are often based on friendships or other business relations, and they don’t necessarily reflect the competence of the lawyer in question. Also keep in mind that Indiana courts tend to set Initial Hearings pretty shortly after the date of arrest. It’s best to begin your independent research while your loved one is still waiting to be released.

Even though modern technology has made attorneys more accessible than ever, the sheer number of options can feel overwhelming. Begin with personal referrals from family and friends, and then use the internet to refine your search. Word-of-mouth recommendations—especially from a trusted source—are incredibly valuable, but they’re just a starting point. Once you’ve gathered some names, look those attorneys up on Avvo (a legal directory website) or perform a Google search. Read the online reviews and make some calls before committing to a course of action.

No one is going to do this for you. The law is only concerned with whether your loved one has access to counsel. You want to make sure they receive the best counsel available.  If you would like to discuss you or a loved one’s case, please feel free to call the Marc Lopez Law Firm at (317) 632-3642. Or contact us by email.