Help! I’ve Been Arrested!

Being arrested or under investigation for a crime will likely turn your life upside down.


You will have many questions on how to handle such a frightening situation.  Seattle criminal defense attorney, Jan Olson, who has been handling cases in King County for decades, answers many common questions.

Should I Cooperate with Law Enforcement?

It is always wise to cooperate with law enforcement.  However, you should speak with an attorney first and have your attorney present during all questioning.  It is not being uncooperative to request the presence of your counsel.  Even if you have not been arrested and the police wish to speak with you (the police may be seeking further information before pressing charges, or even want you as a witness rather than a suspect), you should consult with your attorney.  Being cooperative does not mean assisting the government in helping them prosecute you.

Hiring a criminal defense attorney is essential. An attorney with a good reputation within the law enforcement community can speak with the police first on your behalf.  In over 35 years in criminal law, I have developed strong relationships with local detectives and officers, and trust when they say, “No, we don’t want to talk with your client as a suspect” or “Yes, we are considering pressing charges”.  If the police want to talk with my client as a suspect, most of the time I’m going to recommend that they not provide further information to the police. However, there are circumstances where it will be beneficial to talk if they’re not incriminating themselves.  Counsel is needed to assess the potential benefits and downfalls of communicating with the police on a case by case basis.

Will I “look guilty” if I ask for an attorney?

If you have been arrested or are under investigation, you should do what is in your best interest. It’s in your best interest not to talk to the police until you’ve consulted with a lawyer first.  It doesn’t really matter if you “look guilty” to the police, the police are going to have suspicions and yes, those suspicions could increase if you say, “I’ve got to talk with an attorney first,” but that doesn’t matter.

A prosecutor considering whether to file charges is not going to hold it against an individual that they wanted to talk with an attorney first. The law will not hold it against a person if they want to talk with an attorney first and the court will not do so.

Should I tell my employer that I’ve been arrested?

I advise in most cases (particularly if a client has not been charged) that you do not have any legal requirement to tell an employer that you were arrested, that you’re a suspect under investigation, or that you’re about to be charged with a crime. Most employers have at-will arrangements with their employees. Telling your boss that you were arrested is not necessary and usually harmful. I’ve had many clients who felt morally or ethically compelled to inform their employers and found the next day they were terminated from their job. Jobs are very precious. They’re important. It’s truly a person’s livelihood. I recommend my clients to be extremely cautious about telling their employers.

Can I discuss my arrest with my therapist, priest or pastor?

arrested-counseling-therapy-confidentialThis is a complex question and you should discuss with an attorney prior to disclosing criminal behavior even to a therapist, priest or pastor. In most instances, if you confide or confess to a pastor or priest, that can be covered by a religious privilege known as the priest-penitent privilege. It has to be confessional, one-on-one in nature in order for it to be confidential, which means it cannot be disclosed. The pastor can’t be forced by the government to say what the suspect told that person in a private penitential setting. However, in the state of Washington, counselors are required to disclose instances where their patients have confessed to any child sexual abuse. Therefore the person needs to know going in that a disclosure which may be very therapeutically necessary could indeed result to a referral to local law enforcement.

Do you have further questions regarding a recent arrest? Consult with an attorney.

If you have a criminal matter and would like to consult with a lawyer, contact Jan Olson at Ellis, Li & McKinstry, PLLC.

You can reach Jan by calling (206) 682-0565 or by e-mail at