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Phone Call (Image Source)

According to Cracked.com the "one phone call" rule is a Hollywood invention. They base this on the information this attorney gives:

The one phone call is another one of the urban myths. You may or may not be permitted to use the phone. Generally, out of courtesy they will allow you to make one phone call. Often there are phones in the jail, and people can make as many phone calls as they want as long as there is somebody to accept collect charges.

Also heard in movies and TV-shows is the Miranda Warning (which is real):

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.

It stands to reason that if "you have the right to speak to an attorney", you should be provided with the means to do so (e.g a phone call).

And according to this it is indeed so:

An arrested person has the right, immediately after booking and, except when physically impossible, no later than three (3) hours after arrest, to make at least three (3) completed telephone calls. The calls are to be free if completed in the local calling area, and are at the arrestee's expense if outside the local area. The calls must be allowed immediately on request, or as soon as practicable.

From what I can gather the "one phone call" is not a myth perpetrated by Hollywood, but indeed a right.

So what's the truth?

And what's the "phone call" policy in other countries? Do their 'Miranda' rights include a free phone call?

Just to clarify:
I merely mention the Miranda Warning because I'm speculating the 'phone call' rule might derive from there. But my question is not about Miranda, it's about whether or not the law actually grants you the right to a phone call.

share|improve this question
I think you're conflating two different things, or compounding one myth with another. Yes, the Miranda Warning is real, but it's not like what you see on TV. Not everyone gets the Miranda Warning. It only applies when the police need to interrogate someone, which is not very often. If the police need to interrogate someone, then yes, they're going to let that person call an attorney. They'll also let someone call an attorney after bail is set. But an immutable right everyone has upon arriving at jail? Nope. –  Scott Hamilton Apr 18 '11 at 11:19
it of course also depends on which agency detains you and why, and where (all quotes apply only to the USA for example). I've heard stories of people being detained by the TSA or DHS for days without an opportunity to contact anyone, even family or lawyers. Whether these are true I can't attest though, let alone whether the agents in question were acting within their jurisdiction if it does happen. But under the Patriot Act it wouldn't surprise me. –  jwenting Apr 18 '11 at 13:53
There is a difference between being arrested and being detained. While the laws vary from state to state (and Feds may even have different rules), you can be detained for sometimes up to 48 hours, without being charged. If you are not charged, you do NOT have the right to a lawyer, and do not have the right to a phone call. Also, the rights of minors are different than an adult, so that should be addressed in a separate question . –  fred Apr 18 '11 at 14:30
I've been in police work for 40 years. Any department I'm familiar with will allow arrested parties to make such phone calls as are necessary to contact attorney, bail bondsman, whatever; so long as they are local. What Hollywood does get wrong is giving Miranda at the time of arrest. It's for "custodial interrogation". The standard "Miranda" warning makes no such inclusion. It's a warning about making self-incriminating statements, and the right to have an attorney present during questioning. –  M. Werner Apr 18 '11 at 15:56
Note that the miranda warning does not give you rights you do not already possess in the absence of the warning... –  horatio Apr 19 '11 at 16:09

1 Answer 1

In England and Wales, arrested persons have the right to:

have one person known to them or likely to take an interest in their welfare informed at public expense of their whereabouts as soon as practicable.

(Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act 1984 - Code of Practice C, paragraph 5.1)

They also have the right, usually, to:

telephone one person for a reasonable time

(paragraph 5.6)

PACE also gives the conditions in which the police are allowed to refuse the telephone call.

This is separate to, and in addition to the right to contact a solicitor, which will also be in the PACE codes of practice.

(This is a partial answer to your second question, "And what's the "phone call" policy in other countries?", rather than a real answer to the main question. I would have added it as a comment instead of an answer, but I don't think I can make comments, as a new user.)

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And this is longer than a comment anyway –  Jim Thio Apr 19 '14 at 7:51

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