While California operates differently than other states in its treatment of drug crimes, a drug arrest is a grave matter in any locale. It can mean fines and jail or prison time. It may also have significant consequences for your personal and professional life, especially if you work in a field that requires a professional license with mandatory reporting.

If you are arrested for drug possession—no matter the circumstances—there are specific things you should and should not do. These tips will provide you with the information you need to handle the situation competently.

6 actions to take following a drug arrest

  • Take a deep breath. You must remain calm, because an emotional or physical outburst of any kind could lead to additional charges, such as resisting arrest or obstruction of justice. This will, admittedly, be incredibly difficult given the provocation. But keeping a cool head will serve you well if your case goes to court.
  • Identify yourself when the police request your information, but do not say anything beyond that. Exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent until your attorney is present. Remain respectfully quiet.
  • Call an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If you don’t know a lawyer, use your call to contact a friend or family member to engage one for you. You will need a strong defense to get the charges dismissed or reduced.
  • Write nothing down. The police may request a statement from you. Do not comply or sign anything without your lawyer’s approval. The right to remain silent extends to the written word.
  • Resist the urge to try to negotiate your way out of this problem. Attempting negotiations can make the situation worse. Let your lawyer handle things; it’s what you’re paying them for.
  • Request bail. You do not want to sit in jail for any longer than is necessary. The judge has the power to deny it, but you have the right to ask and wait out the proceedings in more comfortable—if restricted—conditions.

A drug crime is defensible. However, your actions in the immediate aftermath can have massive implications for your case’s success or failure. If you ever find yourself in this scenario, follow these suggestions to begin your defense strategy from a place of strength.