An arrest can occur in a couple of different ways. The most common is where an officer takes someone into custody by handcuffing them. Another form of arrest is where an officer, by his actions, or show of force, takes someone into custody and that person does not feel free to leave.
To arrest an individual, police officers must either have a warrant or probable cause to believe that an individual has committed a crime. To arrest someone in their home, a warrant is usually required; however there are exceptions to the warrant requirement. For instance, if police are in "hot pursuit" of someone, they can generally arrest that person even without a warrant. Likewise, if a crime is committed in front of the officer, the arrest is lawful.
The standard for arresting someone is pretty low. The officer need only have a "reasonable, articulable suspicion that the arrested person committed a crime".
Booking and Initial Bail
Booking is the process where the jail takes you into custody from the arresting police officer, or after the court has ordered you to present yourself for "administrative booking."
Administrative booking is the fingerprinting, mugshot and contact information gathering procedure a court may order after arraignment. Administrative booking can take as long as two hours to complete before a defendant is released.
In many cases, the jail will issue Booking Bail after a defendant is taken into custody and booked. For some crimes a person might be cited and given a date to appear, and then released.
The jail sets bail primarily to insure that the defendant will appear in court at the arraignment. In some cases, a No-Bail hold may be issued. Bail is set by a schedule in each county based on the offense allegedly committed and the defendant's prior criminal history.
In Washington, you have a right to be arraigned within 72 hours of your arrest if you are in custody. At arraignment, a person typically appears before a judge or commissioner.
The defendant will receive a copy of the information, or complaint, listing criminal charges. In Pierce County, and most jurisdictions, a court appointed attorney to help the defendant at the arraignment.
The court will then set conditions of release. There are standard conditions for various offenses. DUI conditions generally include avoiding alcohol, taking a properly requested breath or blood test, and driving only if licensed and insured. Domestic violence offenses generally include a No Contact Order prohibiting communication with the alleged victim.
Bail is another condition of release set by the court.
At the arraignment, the court will screen the defendant for a public defender. If the defendant's financial situation warrants a public defender, the court will appoint an attorney.
Discovery consists of the materials that the prosecutor intends to use against the defendant in a case. It includes police reports, forensic reports, witness statements, DUI packets, Domestic Violence Packets, Photos, videos and supplemental reports.
Pre Trial Conference
At arraignment, the judge will schedule a Pre Trial Conference (PTC). The PTC is your attorney's opportunity to negotiate a settlement of your case. Criminal cases are frequently resolved through a plea bargain in which the defendant might agree to plead guilty to one or more of the charges, or a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence, or so that certain charges are dropped.
Some cases are dismissed through a Stipulated Order of Continuance (SOC), Continuation Without Finding of Fact (CWOF), or a Compromise of Misdemeanor whereby a sum of money is paid to the victim who then agrees to a dismissal of charges.
At the PTC, your attorney might schedule various motions.
Although one can frequently resolve a case at the PTC, it might make more sense to set another Pre Trial Conference to allow defense counsel more time to negotiate, or investigate in order to find additional facts to help fight the case.
Pre Trial Motions
Motions may be brought by the defense attorney, or the prosecutor, or both. Motions may be argued to suppress evidence, and/or dismiss the charges against you prior to trial. Pretrial Motions may be argued by both the defense attorney and the prosecutor to establish what evidence and witnesses will be introduced at trial.
During the trial, a fact finder (the judge or a jury), will decide whether the defendant is guilty. In a felony trial, a judge, or twelve jurors, plus two alternate jurors will hear the evidence in the case and decide whether the defendant is guilty of the crimes charged or any lesser included crimes.
In a misdemeanor trial, a judge, or six jurors, will hear the case and decide the whether the defendant is guilty.
In a juvenile case, only a judge will hear the evidence in the trial and will decide whether the defendant is guilty. Juveniles do not have a right to have a jury hear their case.
The prosecution has the burden of proof in a criminal trial. This means that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crimes charged.
The jury will only hear the evidence that the court allows.
If a jury finds the defendant guilty, the court will either immediately enter a sentence, or schedule sentencing at a later date. Generally, the court determines the appropriate punishment for a defendant. In determining a suitable sentence, the court will consider a number of factors including the defendant's criminal record and the severity of the crime as well as mitigating factors.
Although the court will ultimately determine the appropriate sentence, a recommendation may be made by the prosecutor and by the defense attorney. In some cases, usually as part of a plea agreement, there is a joint sentencing recommendation for an agreed sentence. However, even in cases where there is an agreed recommendation, the court is not bound by such agreements and may sentence the defendant up the maximum allowed by law.
In addition, there are several alternatives to jail that a defendant might be eligible for.