One of the more common assumptions people make about criminal law (probably due to watching too many Hollywood movies) is: “if I get arrested, don’t I get one free phone call from jail?”

This is a complicated issue: it’s interesting because there used to be an expectation that “you get one phone call.” That was a maxim that came from an era before cell phones were ubiquitous and in everyone’s pocket.

These days, it really depends on how nice you are to the cops or how nice they feel like being that day. Police officers have a lot of discretion about this. If you get arrested, sometimes, they might let you make calls while you’re sitting in their patrol car. But the line is really starting to shift where it isn’t so clear anymore that you’re always going to get one phone call from jail.

I think, in general, the idea is that you’re not going to be held in custody without being able to communicate on the outside to at least let somebody know you’re there. Typically, even as a criminal defense attorney, I don’t get phone calls from people in jail.

First of all, because my clients don’t know who I am until after they are arrested and then discover that they need someone like me. Second of all, because a lot of times, if people do get to make one phone call, they’ll call their wife, or girlfriend, or mom, or someone like that, and then that person will do the research to find a defense attorney like me.

So in conclusion, the answer is: maybe. You might be allowed to make a call after you get arrested, but no, you’re not automatically given “one free call from jail.”

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Frequently Asked QuestionsFAQ: If I Get Arrested, Do I Get One Free Phone Call From Jail?