Criminal Defense Blog NYC

What to Wear to Your Voluntary Surrender: Comfortable Shoes and Silence

Posted by Bruce Yerman on January 9, 2018

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When police ask you to come down to the precinct to speak with them, they’re trying to arrange your voluntary surrender – they want you to turn yourself in to be arrested, even if they mention nothing about arrest.

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Before surrendering, call a lawyer.  From that point forward, your lawyer should conduct all police communication for you.  Under the New York State Constitution, when a lawyer enters a case on your behalf (by, for example, me calling the police and putting them on notice that I am your lawyer), police may not attempt to question you outside of the lawyer's presence.

It is almost always a good idea to voluntarily surrender.

Voluntary surrender is better than being dragged from bed in handcuffs in front of your family and neighbors.  It’s better than being grabbed and frisked at your job, in front of your employer and co-workers.  It eliminates the opportunity for police to forcibly arrest you. Also, after you’re arrested, a judge will determine bail conditions at your first court appearance (“arraignment”).  There are few better arguments a lawyer can make for your release without bail (“recognizance”), or lower bail than would otherwise be the case, than: “My client, knowing she would be arrested, voluntarily turned herself in to the police this morning. She poses no risk of flight.”

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HOWEVER, just because you cooperate by surrendering, does not mean that you should cooperate by speaking: you should “Never Speak with Police”.

In New York, you have rights under the State Constitution, and under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, to not speak with police.  You should always exercise that right.

When you are not in custody, you should not speak with police at all, other than to say, “I want to speak with my lawyer.”  If you don’t have a lawyer, and most people don’t, you should say, “I want a lawyer.”  If police continue questioning you, or otherwise try to get you to speak, repeat either response – once, twice, 500 times, as many times as it takes.

When you are in custody, you should cooperate with being fingerprinted and photographed.  You should be calm and polite.  And you should say the same things when police question you: if you have a lawyer, “I want to speak with my lawyer”; if you don’t have a lawyer, “I want a lawyer.”  The only exception, while you’re in custody, concerns “pedigree information”.

“Pedigree information” is information that identifies you, such as: name, street name, date of birth, address, telephone number . . . .  However, prosecutors can often use pedigree information against you as evidence: the line between pedigree information and self-incrimination is often murky. 

Suppose, for example, you’re accused of harassing someone from your cell phone: you will incriminate yourself by providing your cell phone number to police.  Or suppose you are accused of possessing drugs that police found inside your apartment when you weren’t home: you will incriminate yourself by providing your home address to police.  Self-incrimination should always be avoided – NOT BY LYING, but by remaining silent.

Speak with your lawyer before you surrender, about what pedigree information you should not provide.  Write this information down. Memorize it.  At your voluntary surrender, stick to the script.

Police will use all kinds of tactics to get you to speak. They might be friendly.  They might persuade you that speaking with them will have no consequences, because you’re being arrested for trivial charges that eventually will be dismissed. They might make you believe that bad things will happen to you if you don’t speak – for example, high bail will be set, or ACS will take your children. No matter how fearful, anxious or intimidated you feel, stick with the script: “I want to speak with my lawyer.”

On the day of your voluntary surrender, you will be in custody for many hours. Do yourself a favor: wear comfortable shoes and SILENCE.


Bruce Yerman is a New York City criminal defense attorney.  If you'd like to discuss arrest and arraignment, contact Bruce for a free consultation:

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Topics: Voluntary Surrender