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The Legendary 'One Phone Call' — Is It Real?

The Legendary One Phone Call Is it Real-1

When we began researching this article, we thought it would be a simple yes-or-no answer. Everyone's seen at least one movie where a character in custody demands their singular phone call with entitlement.

But we all know movies and pop culture can play fast and loose with how law enforcement actually works. For example, undercover cops don't have to identify themselves if asked, and yet that trope plays out in countless media.


So, we wanted to settle this. Do you actually have the right to a phone call from jail?

The answer is yes, but it's complicated.


One Phone Call... And Also Maybe More?

We can't answer this with an unqualified "yes" because this varies wildly between different states and local jurisdictions.

However, we can make a blanket statement that, if you've been formally arrested, police must allow you to contact an attorney should you ask for one (hint: always do this). Finding and contacting a lawyer might take more than one phone call, so police need to provide you adequate access to a phone to ensure you can speak with one.


Beyond that is where things get murky. Some jurisdictions allow suspects to call people other than their attorneys to ensure friends and loved ones know where they are. Further, numerous police stations provide a lot of leeway in outside communication when arranging child care.

Suppose you've been arrested for any reason. In that case, you should know that any communication you have with your lawyer over the phone is protected by attorney-client privilege. Any other communication is not.


The Legendary One Phone Call Is it Real-2

This article discusses things of a legal nature. It is not intended as legal advice. Always consult a lawyer for proper and accurate legal advice. Further, this article concerns only United States law enforcement and legal rights; your rights in other countries may vary.

References: Your Rights When You Are Detained: Do You Really Get A Phone Call | Do I Have the Right to a Phone Call After an Arrest | Your Rights When You Are Detained: Do You Really Get a Phone Call | Five Facts About Police Deception and Youth You Should Know | KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Stopped by Police | Can the police lie to me

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