What to do if someone you know has been arrested by the police (2024)

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When someone is arrested, it can be a scary and confusing experience for everyone, including friends and family members trying to help them. This article describes some first steps to take if someone you know has been arrested. Learn more about what to do if your family member has been detained by ICE.

Stay calm and get important information

If you are there when someone you know is getting arrested, it may be difficult to control your emotions. However, the best way to help is to stay calm. Remind your loved one to remain calm as well. Learn more about your rights when under arrest or in custody.

You want to get as much information as soon as possible. Here is a list of important questions to ask:

  • Is my loved one free to go?
  • Is my loved one under arrest? (If your loved one is not free to go, you should assume they are under arrest. If your loved one is free to go, you should leave with them immediately. If they are not free to go, tell your loved one they should not answer any questions until their lawyer has arrived.)
  • Why is my loved one under arrest? What are the charges?
  • Is there an arrest warrant?
  • If there is a warrant, what is the name of the court that issued it?
  • Where are you taking my loved one, and is there a phone number?

There is often very little information given when someone is arrested. To start, you will need to know what county they have been arrested in. That will determine what jail they have been sent to. If you are there when your loved one is arrested, be sure to get the address of the jail they are being taken to.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find out where your loved one has been taken if you are not there at the time of arrest. Each jail is operated by the specific county or municipality where it is located. Therefore, they each have their own system to search for someone in jail.

Search the Cook County jail lookup.
Search the DuPage County jail lookup.
Search the Lake County jail lookup.
Search the Will County jail lookup.
Search the Kane County jail lookup.
Search the McHenry County jail lookup.

For all other counties, you should be able to find your county’s jail by searching online. Use a search term like “______ County jail lookup” for the county you live in. You can also contact your local sheriff’s office. The county sheriff’s office may also have other necessary information, like how to post a bond for your loved one’s release.

In Chicago, people are not taken to the county jail. Instead, they are taken to “lock up.” It may be difficult to find out which lock up your loved one has been taken to. The two key pieces of information you need to locate them are:

  • The exact address or cross streets where the arrest took place, and
  • The beat number of the squad car that took them away (this is usually a number posted on top of the car between the flashing lights).

Your loved one will be taken to the local Chicago police lock up, which is also where their lawyer will meet them. If you do not know where your friend or family member has been taken, use this Adult Arrest Search directory. Unfortunately, this does not include arrests of minors because those records are not made public. If your child has been arrested in Chicago, contact your local police department. You can ask your local precinct whether your loved one can be released. You can also ask when and where the bond hearing will be held.

You should also get as much information as possible about the police officers making the arrest. Important information about arresting officers includes:

  • The officer’s name,
  • The officer’s badge number, and
  • What agency the officer works for (are they state or federal police)

You have the right to record any encounter with law enforcement. If the officers take anything from your friend or family member while arresting them, be sure to write down or record these items.

Be aware that if you try to interfere with the arrest, you may be arrested as well. In Illinois, there are several crimes that could apply if you get in the way of an officer making an arrest, like obstruction of law enforcement or disorderly conduct. That is why it is especially important to remain calm while you gather information.

Plan for next steps

If you are with your loved one when they are arrested, make sure they have your contact information saved in their phone. A new law in Illinois allows people who have been arrested to access saved contacts in their cell phone before the phone is taken away.

Remind them of the most important rules when you are arrested:

  1. Do not speak to the police without a lawyer
  2. Ask for a lawyer – for a criminal charge, the police must give you a lawyer

If you receive a call from a friend/family member that has been arrested, the most important piece of information to get is their location. The second most important information is the time and location of their bond hearing.

Remember that any phone call from a jail or prison is likely being recorded. Because you are not their attorney, nothing you talk about with your friend/family member is confidential. Do not discuss why your loved one got arrested over the phone. Do not discuss anything related to the charges or alleged crime they were arrested for. It is best to assume the police are listening at all times.

Get a lawyer

If you know a criminal attorney, contact them immediately and have them meet you wherever your loved one is taken. If you do not know a lawyer or cannot afford one, you still have the right to a lawyer during a criminal proceeding. The Illinois State Bar Association can help you find affordable criminal defense lawyers.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court must appoint one to you. Unlike an attorney you hire, Public Defenders are paid by the county they work in. However, they do not work for the county. A Public Defender’s only responsibility is to ensure their client has the best legal representation possible. A Public Defender may come to the jail right away, or you may need to contact your local Public Defender to make sure they are going to help your loved one. If a Public Defender has not shown up to defend your loved one, you can search for your local Public Defender. However, it is not your responsibility to get a Public Defender for your loved one. The right to a criminal defense attorney is in the U.S. Constitution, the Illinois Constitution, and is Illinois law.

If you live in Cook County, you can contact a criminal defense lawyer for free, any time of day or night, by calling 844-81-RIGHT (844-817-4448). You can find more information on the Cook County Public Defenders website, including the information for all the bond courts in Cook County.

Learn more about going to bond court.

Last full review by a subject matter expert

August 05, 2022

What to do if someone you know has been arrested by the police (2024)


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