5 Things To Do When A Client Calls From Jail

When a person’s liberty is at stake, time is of the essence. Here’s what to do when a call comes in from a client (or prospective client) in jail.

  • Get the basic information. Find out the time and location of the arrest, the arresting agency, the charges (if known), the bail (if any and if known), the jail in which the client is being held, the client’s booking number and the date, and the location of any court appearance (if known). Many counties provide this information on the local sheriff’s website. Don’t get other information from the client over the phone; although Florida Law, Chapter 934.10, Fla. Stat. prohibits eavesdropping on a call between an attorney and a client, it’s not uncommon for a police officer to place calls for clients and to be nearby during the conversation.
  • Give client general warnings. Explain privileged communications, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to counsel. Warn the client not to make statements to anyone without your prior knowledge and approval. Specifically, tell the client not to share information with jail inmates or to speak to parole or probation officers, police officers, members of the press, or family members about any pending or possible charges or case-related matters without counsel present.
  • Admonish the client about contacts with others. Admonish the client not to have any indirect or direct contact with any potential witness against him or her because such communications may be later viewed as attempts to dissuade the witness or as an admission of guilt. Also, caution the client that visits or calls to others, e.g., a bondsperson or family member, may be overheard by jail authorities or other inmates.
  • Tell the client that you’ll be there as soon as possible. It’s rare to encounter difficulties in getting in to see a jailed client. In fact, it’s against the law for any officer having custody of an arrested person to willfully refuse or neglect to allow the arrested person’s attorney to visit the prisoner. Insist on a consultation that’s private, in-person, face-to-face, without wire screens, without open doors, and without others present or nearby; if you’re rebuffed, get a court order.
  • Conduct an initial client interview. Establish a good working relationship and rapport with the client. Clients are particularly concerned with “what’s going to happen” and how soon they can be released. It’s very important at the first interview to explain to the client the stages of the criminal process and the release opportunities. If there’s enough time for an extended interview, at least get the basics: the client’s true name, address, date and place of birth, work address, telephone numbers, and Social Security number; the name, address, and telephone number of a close relative or friend; and any information needed related to his or her responsibilities and ties to the community to try to obtain the client’s release. If the client is in the military, get the client’s rate, pay grade, duty station, ship movement, name of commanding or superior officer, duty hours, and a civilian contact. Because it’s conceivable that the interview room will be bugged, discuss highly sensitive information by exchanging written notes or whispering it in the ear.

If you have a criminal case that requires experienced knowledgeable counsel in either state or federal court, feel free to contact me for a no-cost consultation at 727-772-1941. Referral fees paid consistent with the Rules regulating the Florida Bar.

Of course, if you have questions about any stage of the litigation process, do not hesitate to contact us and will gladly explain whatever question you might have. We truly appreciate your business and will work aggressively for you.

robRobert Eckard is managing partner of the Law Office of Robert Eckard & Associates.  Rob’s practice areas include business litigation, criminal defense, white collar crime, DUI, and international law.

The Law Office of Robert Eckard & Associates (LORE) has not been retained for any matter by you until such time as a duly executed retainer is signed by you and an authorized agent of LORE and any retainer deposit paid and returned to us.  Nothing contained herein is intended to create an attorney client relationship or be considered legal advice, as such, no conflict of interest shall be presumed in the event LORE is later retained by an adverse party.  See Rule 4-1.18 et. al., 2006 Florida Supreme Court.