The Arrest: Do The Police Have A Warrant, Or Are They Making An On-Sight Arrest?
In order to arrest you, police must have what is known as "Probable Cause". If you are the focus of an investigation, the police may establish this probable cause by providing an affidavit to a judge listing their reasons for believing you have committed a crime. If the judge agrees, he or she will sign the affidavit and it becomes a warrant for your arrest.
In other cases, an officer may make what is known as an on-sight arrest. In such a case, where the officer does not have a warrant, the police may claim to have seen you committing a crime, or to have been provided with other information that establishes probable cause to believe you have committed a crime, such as information from a reliable source. For instance, if an officer claims to have seen you fire a gun and run from the scene where another person was found dead, then that officer may arrest you without a warrant by claiming that his or her observations established probable cause that you shot the victim.
Arrest By Warrant
If the police are arresting you on a warrant, you may have some advance notice of the arrest, as you may have been contacted by the police during the course of their investigation. In many cases, if you are the focus of an investigation, you will have been asked to speak with the investigating officers. However, in other cases, the police may not need to speak with you and they will apply for a warrant without your knowledge, as in a case of Internet crime.
In any event, if police arrive to arrest you on a valid warrant you must go with them. Other than identifying yourself to the arresting officers, you ought not to speak with them except to explicitly say "I do not wish to speak with you, I want to speak with my attorney now." Chances are the officers are likely to try to persuade you to discuss the allegations against you, but you have an absolute right to remain silent that you must protect until you have had a chance to speak with your attorney.
On Sight Arrest
If an officer is making an on-sight arrest, as in the case of a typical drunk driving arrest, there will be little or no advance notice beyond the flashing of the blue lights. However, in Connecticut when an officer attempts to make an arrest you have a duty to submit, though again that duty only requires you to identify yourself and not resist when placed into custody. This means that, though you may disagree with the officer, you must nonetheless allow yourself to be arrested if that officer indicates that he or she is arresting you. You do not have to answer any questions beyond identifying yourself and, as in the case of an arrest by warrant, you ought not to speak with the arresting officer other than to clearly and explicitly say "I do not wish to speak with you, I want to speak with my attorney now." By explicitly invoking your right to remain silent and your right to counsel you will give your attorney the best chance to defend you.
The Booking Process
Each arresting agency will follow slightly different protocols in the booking process, but generally you should expect that once you have been placed into police custody you will be taken to a police station to be "booked". This process involves photographing you, fingerprinting you, and setting a bail amount. If you are arrested on a warrant, the judge who signed the warrant will in most cases also have set your bail amount. If you are arrested on sight, then the officer booking you will set your bail amount.
The process can vary in length, and unfortunately you will need to be patient and remain silent other than to request to speak with your attorney if the officers attempt to question you. In some cases, the officers will not try to question you, and they will simply book you then let you know your bail amount.
Depending upon the nature of the crime charged, your criminal record, and other factors, once you have been booked the arresting officer will let you know the terms of your release. In some cases, you may be released on a Promise To Appear, in which case you will simply sign a document indicating that you promise to appear in court for your hearing on the charges. In other cases, you will be released once you have posted the amount of bail set by the judge or the officer. If you have the resources to post your bail amount yourself, you may do so. If not, you can have someone else post it for you, unless special restrictions have been placed on your bail. In most cases, you will be able to hire a bailbonds person who will take a certain percentage of the bail amount from you and use his or her funds to post the rest. If you post the bond with your own funds, then you will get them back once your case is disposed of; if you use a bailbonds person, you will not get back the fee.
Your first court appearance is known as arraignment. If you are unable to bail out, then your arraignment should take place within 48 hours of your arrest. If you do bail out, the officer who releases you will provide you with the date of your arraignment and its location. It is imperative that you appear at your arraignment and all court appearances, even if you hire an attorney, as your failure to show up for court can result in a separate criminal charge for Failure To Appear, and will also likely result in an increase in your bail.
Hiring An Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case, even if you ultimately decide not to hire him or her. As a prospective client, you will enjoy the protections of attorney-client confidentiality, such that your communications with an attorney regarding your charges will be privileged.
Though you have the right to represent yourself in court, doing so is often unwise, as you will be facing a prosecutor who is a trained attorney seeking your conviction. The better path is to research and speak with a number of attorneys. You will want to know how many cases like yours they have handled; how many criminal cases they have tried; and you will want to share with them the facts and circumstances of your case so that he or she can give you their best advice.
If you cannot afford a private attorney, and you qualify according to certain guidelines, you may have a public defender appointed for you.
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