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What to expect after an arrest

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When you have been placed under police arrest, the authorities are required to follow standard procedures throughout the process. Learn what happens during an arrest, what to expect after an arrest, and when to call a lawyer.

Arrest

Most police arrests happen as a result of a judge issuing an arrest warrant. This document allows police officers to locate a particular person and bring him or her into custody in order to make an appearance before the judge. Typically, the person named on the arrest warrant has been accused of a crime like a parole violation, an indictment, or a complaint.

While most arrests are prompted by a warrant, some don't require a warrant. If a police officer witnesses a crime or has probable cause to judge that a person has committed a crime, no warrant is necessary to arrest the suspect.

No matter which series of events causes the arrest to happen, police officers must recite a set of statements known as Miranda rights before questioning a suspect. These warnings include the right to remain silent, a reminder that anything a person placed under arrest says may be used against him or her in court, the right to be accompanied by a lawyer during questioning, and the right to have a lawyer appointed.

When it comes to police questioning, it's important to remember that you don't have to answer any questions before or after an arrest. If the police officers don't read your Miranda rights or wait to do so until after they've already begun questioning you, rest assured that anything you've said typically cannot be submitted as evidence in court.

Investigation

The criminal investigation process differs based on the type of crime and the police arrest process. If you're arrested based on an indictment, violation, or complaint, police officers have already launched an investigation into your actions.

If you're arrested while committing a crime or if police officers arrest you based on probable cause, they might begin the investigation immediately by conducting a pat down to ensure you don't have weapons or evidence on your person. If deemed necessary, police officers will conduct a more thorough search of your person after arrest, and they might also survey the scene for evidence or other contraband.

Booking

After you have been taken into police custody, you'll go through the booking process, which produces an official arrest record. All jurisdictions follow a standard booking procedure, but not all steps may be necessary for each person. Booking typically includes the following steps:

  • Producing a record: The suspect's name, identifying information, and related crime become part of the arrest record.

  • Creating a mug shot: The mug shot establishes the suspect's identity and creates a record of his or her condition when arrested.

  • Storing the suspect's property: The suspect's clothing and most personal property are stored until the suspect's release. Any weapons or contraband are typically kept as evidence.

  • Documenting fingerprints: The suspect's fingerprints become part of his or her record, and they may also enter a national database. These fingerprints may be used to solve future or past crimes as well.

  • Performing a search: Though most officers conduct pat downs during a police arrest, a complete strip search or full body search is often necessary upon booking.

  • Searching for warrants: In addition to creating a new booking record, police officers check to confirm whether a suspect has pending or outstanding warrants for his or her arrest.

  • Checking health status: Assessing a suspect's health status is often necessary for the safety of officers, staff, and other inmates.

  • Gathering information: Officers typically request information about a suspect's affiliations or relationships to determine where he or she should be placed in jail.

  • Taking a DNA sample: Some suspects might be asked to produce DNA samples to be housed in national databases.

Keep in mind that Miranda rights don't apply during the booking process. In general, it's best to speak as little as possible during booking and answer questions as simply as possible. Most suspects are allowed to make a phone call to a family member or a lawyer after the booking process is complete.

How long will I stay in jail?

Within 48 to 72 hours of being arrested, you'll appear in court for an arraignment. This is where you'll learn the charges against you, and you'll have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. If you have to go to trial at a later date, you might be sentenced to jail in the meantime. Most people want to get out of jail as soon as possible after arraignment. Judges set bail for individual suspects, but many jails set standard bail amounts for common crimes. If you can't raise the funds to post bail on your own, you might have the option to work with a bail bondsperson in order to get out of jail quickly.

When you post bail, you generally have to agree to comply with certain conditions. The crime you're accused of, your prior arrest records, and other issues might affect the conditions. If you violate any of the conditions, you risk being arrested again.

If you have strong ties to the community and if you present no risk of flight, you might be eligible to be released on your own recognizance. This typically means that you don't have to post bail for release.

Release from jail

If you're charged with a crime, you'll have the opportunity to go to trial. In some cases, however, prosecutors drop charges for minor cases, when victims request that no charges be filed, or if the suspect provides testimony against another.

If you're released without charges filed, you'll need to take a few additional steps to lessen the impact on your record or remove the charges entirely. Find out what your local court requires for expungement or record sealing, or contact a criminal defense attorney for assistance.

Hire a lawyer

If you’re facing criminal charges, you’ll want to talk to a lawyer. The help of a private criminal defense attorney will almost always result in a better outcome for your case. A lawyer will be familiar with the best defense strategy for your situation, and can help achieve lighter penalties than if you were to use a public defender or represent yourself. If you’ve been charged with a crime, consult a lawyer.

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