I Want My Phone Call

The police have you sitting in an interrogation room in Wisconsin, and they tell you that they want you to make a statement. You invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and refuse to discus anything without an attorney (which is exactly what you should do). “That’s fine,” they tell you. “We’re arresting you and taking you to the county jail.” At this point you might be a little nervous, not just about what the police are talking about but letting your family and friends know where you are. “I know my rights, I want my phone call.” You tell the officers. You know you can call people, have them get ready to post your bond, make arrangements for your kids, or even just have someone call you into work. The officers refuse and bring you straight to jail. Have you just had your rights violated?

Movie Myth

We’re not sure exactly where the idea that you have the right to make one phone call came from, but my best guess is from an old movie. It would make sense: it is a flair of the dramatic, so much could ride on that one phone call, will they answer, what will you say? But the truth of the matter is that you are not entitled to the use of a phone for a number of calls, or even one.

Despite the fact that you are not legally entitled to have the use of a phone upon being taken into custody, all is not lost. As long as you remain polite and respectful to the officers, most of the time they will allow you to make phone calls to friends or family. They may do so under the condition that you do so in front of them, especially in cases where they believe you might call to arrange the destruction of evidence, or warn others of possible police action, however they will not usually be intrusive. In some cases, officers may even allow you to look up numbers, or even use your own cellphone to make the call.

In the event you have an arresting officer that does not let you make calls immediately upon your arrest, you do still have other options. Jails have phone systems in place for inmate use, although regulations about access and use may vary depending on the county. Initially after being taken into custody, you will likely not have a phone card or money on your books, which means the phone calls that you are able to make will likely have to be placed collect. This means that the person you are calling will have to accept the charges prior to you having a conversation, although they will let you record a short message to inform them who is calling. While this may not be ideal, and extended conversations could get expensive, it is still a way for you to get in contact with the outside world. One thing of note on calls you make from any phone at the jail: all of these calls, with the exception of a privileged phone call with your attorney, are subject to monitoring and are recorded. We repeat: any phone calls you make from jail, other than to your attorney, are being recorded. They can–and likely will–be used against you should you be charged criminally. Because of this, when making phone calls you make from the jail, DO NOT discuss any details, possible defenses, suspicions, etc. regarding your case with anyone except your attorney.

Hopefully you never find yourself in the situation that you need to worry about contacting people while in police custody. If you do, keep the above information in mind, and you will be maneuvering yourself into the best possible situation for your defense moving forward. If you or someone you know has been arrested in Wisconsin, or is going to be charged with a criminal offense in Wisconsin, call our offices for a free consultation with a top Wisconsin criminal defense attorney.