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Do You Have a 'Right' to Phone Calls After Arrest?

By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

Do you have a "right" to a phone call following your arrest?

If your legal knowledge comes mostly from watching movies and TV shows, you may believe that you are automatically granted this right. And in many states, this may be the case.

However, the right to make a phone call is typically governed by state law and is not something specifically enumerated in the Constitution. As a result, to learn your exact rights, you may need to talk to an attorney in your state.

For example, a person arrested in Rhode Island does have the enumerated right to make a phone call. The person arrested can make a call to secure a lawyer or to arrange for bail as soon as practicable following an arrest, typically within one hour.

Furthermore, Rhode Island law also provides that the telephone call shall be carried out in a manner that maximizes confidentiality between the person arrested and the call's recipient.

Similarly, in California, an arrestee has a right immediately after booking to make at least three phone calls within three hours of arrest. These calls may generally be made to an attorney, a bail bondsman, and a relative.

In general, some common stipulations of state laws addressing phone calls after arrest include:

  • Rules about whom you're allowed to call. While you may call an attorney or bail bondsman, you probably can't call your bookie or best friend. In addition, some states may grant additional calls for things like arranging for child care.
  • Time limits. It's best to keep your phone calls short and sweet. While some statutes may not provide a specific limit on your conversations, you probably can't chit-chat for hours.
  • Allowing phone calls upon request. Sometimes, there may be no requirement that the arresting officer has to inform you of your right to make a phone call. So if you're not automatically allowed to make a phone call, it can never hurt to ask. Once you get to a phone, it may be a good idea to talk to your criminal defense attorney first. And make sure to ask him whom else you're allowed to call.

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