What Can Someone Do After They Are Released From Jail?
Whatever damage is done is probably done at that point, but you don’t want to make it worse; for example, if it’s a drug arrest, very often the police officer, at some point, might say, “Look, this is your one chance to cooperate with us: we’ll drop or lessen the charges, or I’ll put in a good word with the state’s attorney or the district attorney, but you need to cooperate with us. So you need to give us the names of five people you get drugs from or who I can get some stuff from, and we won’t use your name.” They’re trying to ply you for information. It’s very important in most cases not to start talking because once you do, you’re really putting yourself in the bad.
You are not only giving evidence against yourself because you’re admitting you’re dealing with people who deal with drugs, but you also could be putting yourself in physical harm’s way because if you start giving names of other people who are higher up the scale in drug dealing, there are going to be repercussions. If they find out you ratted them out, they’re going to come looking for you, or they’re going to send somebody and do something pretty nasty to you. People get killed over things like that. So you have to be very careful about what you’re saying to the police because they’re always going to make it sound like, “Oh, we’re going to help you out by doing this and that.”
If you’ve been arrested in Illinois for a drug offense, it’s a class VI felony. You’re looking at six to 30 years in prison, with no possibility of probation. If the cop says, “You give me all these names and help me set this thing up, and I’ll put in a good word for you with the state’s attorney,” what does that mean? A good word could be, “He wasn’t a bad person,” but the state attorney could say, “Fine, it’s still a class VI,” and you’re still going to prison for six to 30 years. I am not saying you shouldn’t cooperate with the police in specific instances; but if you’re going to, you want an attorney present, and you want something in black and white. You don’t want a handshake on the deal, and you don’t want the officer saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you. I got your back” because there’s no guarantee there.
You need something in writing saying, “If I help you arrest someone that delivers the same amount of weight or greater than I did, I get my charge reduced from a class VI to a class I probational offense.” So if you’re going to cooperate with the police, you can do so without creating problems for yourself, and there are better ways to do it. For instance, I get cops all the time on sex cases who want to talk to my clients, and I’ll tell them, “Look, we are happy to cooperate on this case and further your investigation, but you have to give me the specific questions you have in as much detail as you want; then I can get the most detailed answers I can from my client.”
If I give the officer those answers, they can never be used against my client in a court of law. If the client just bellies up that information on his own, every single thing he said is going to be used against him. So there’s nothing wrong with cooperating if you know what you’re getting in return and don’t incriminate yourself. The cops are all going to play nice while you cooperate; but then once they’ve used you, they’ll throw you away like a used tissue. So it’s just not one of those things you want to do unless you have something in black and white.
Putting a good word in on your class VI felony still means you’re going to prison for six to 30 years. “Yes, he was a nice kid” isn’t that helpful. I’ve seen cops be that way. But some are honest and will help you out, but some are just playing you. What do you expect: they are the cop, and you are the robber, so they are not going to be nice to you. Let’s say you agree to set some people up because you have a really bad drug case and don’t want to go to prison. You try a couple of times, and for whatever reason it falls through, or the person you’re trying to get busted somehow gets wind of it, and everything’s gone by the time the cop gets there.
The cops can say, “We know damn well you notified him. You told him what was coming, and that’s why he cleaned out his house before we got there.” Then they can really turn on you with the state saying, “Look, this guy went out of his way to make things worse.” So there is a time and a place for everything; you just have to make sure it’s done right, and you want an experienced attorney that does these things all the time.
Look, if they’re going to get a warrant for you, they will, so you try and be cooperative, but you don’t want to put a noose around your neck at the same time and kick out the stool. So you’ve got to be cooperative, and you’ve got to be smart about what you’re going to do. Of course, you never want to incriminate yourself, and you have to be careful how you work things because, as I said, just some of the innocuous things you think would not incriminate you put you at the scene. That’s one strike against you, where you might have had an alibi defense. So there are a lot of things to consider.
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