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The Arrest Process
Guide to the Arrest Process
The Arrest Process and How to Get Through it All
Being arrested can be a scary ordeal. You have probably watched it on television, but how much do you really understand and how much is left out for a show? Even if you understand the whole process, you might not be in the right frame of mind to keep calm and think about what is going to happen. This article will go through the basic arrest process in the hopes you can remember the steps if you are ever in the situation.
The Arrest Warrant
Unless a law enforcement official actually sees you committing a crime, a warrant must be signed by a judge for the police to take you into custody. In order for a warrant to be signed, there must be some evidence that you committed the crime. When they come to your home or work to get you, be ready to be placed in handcuffs no matter what the charge is.
Being Taken into Custody
If you are being arrested, there must be a warrant. You may also be taken into custody to be questioned about a crime. In either case, you do not have to say anything to the police. The first thing you should do is to ask if you are being arrested. If not, they can only detain you for a certain amount of time before they must let you go free. If you are being arrested, you still have rights. Any time one of these rights is broken, it means the case against you is no longer valid. Now is the time to demand a lawyer and keep your mouth shut until you have spoken with one. You must be read your Miranda rights at the time of your arrest for anything you say to be used against you.
The Booking Process
Once you have been read your rights and questioned, you will be taken to a holding cell for processing. They will take your picture, fingerprint you and give you a quick physical. You will be given the chance to make a phone call while being processed. If the charge has a set bail amount, you can have that process started so you can be released as soon as they are done booking you.
Waiting to See the Judge
You may have to spend a day or so in the detention center before going before the judge. If there was no pre-set bail, you can ask the judge how much it will be or if you can be released on your own recognizance. At this point you will either be released on bail or have to go back to the detention center until your hearing.
A Warrant has Been Issued for Your Arrest – Now What?
You are sitting in your living room, enjoying a nice evening with your family and there is a knock on your door. You open it to find two police officers asking if you are you. When you reply to the affirmative, you are told you put your hands behind your back and that you are under arrest for some crime you may or may not have committed. You have no idea what is going on or why you are being handcuffed, or you do know why but are not sure of the how.
Before a Warrant is Issued
Unless you were caught in the middle of committing a crime, a judge will need to sign a warrant for police officers to come and place you under arrest. This is not the same thing as being asked to come in for questioning regarding a crime, they are actually accusing you of committing the crime. In order for a warrant to be issued, there has to be evidence against you.
The Evidence must be Substantial
In order to avoid having people placed under arrest when they did not commit a crime, a judge will only sign a warrant if there is good, solid evidence that would prove to a jury you are guilty. Because of this, it is a very good idea to have a lawyer called and meet you at the police station. The evidence could prove to be false or just circumstantial, but you can be sure there is something that gives the police reason to believe you did the crime. If the crime occurred in a place or area you are at frequently, there could be fingerprints or some other piece of evidence; maybe someone gave the police your name and thought they saw you during the crime.
Your Immediate Rights
Whether or not the police read you the Miranda rights, telling you that you have the right to remain silent or your words can be used against you, you have those rights. In other words, do not start talking unless an attorney tells you to do so. Words can have their meaning twisted, you may not be given the chance to fully explain something before another question is asked, or you can be confused or scared into saying things you do not mean. Wait for an attorney, even if you know you are innocent and want to go home. Your odds are much better if you have legal counsel.
The Misdemeanor Arrest vs the Felony Arrest
Generally speaking, there are two different types of arrests, the misdemeanor and the felony. Misdemeanor charges are not serious crimes and in most cases will not result in more than one year in a local detention center, you often will not go to a regular jail and definitely not a prison. A felony is a serious crime. Quite often it is a crime against another person and not a crime against property. The sentence of a felony can result in life in prison or the death penalty if it is valid in your state.
Because a misdemeanor can be something as simple as an unpaid traffic ticket, odds are pretty good you will be released on bail unless you cannot afford it or have skipped out on bail before. If you are out on bail, the court has 45 days to have your trial. If you are still detained, they have only 30 days for your trial. You will have a pre-trial meeting with your attorney to discuss how you wish to proceed with the case. You may, at any time before being judged, change your plea from not guilty to guilty or even reverse that. Your lawyer may try to have the charges lowered or even dropped due to your character and lack of a criminal record.
A felony is nothing to laugh at. If convicted, you will lose more than just your freedom. You will never be allowed to vote or carry a weapon and the charge will follow you everywhere you go. Because of the seriousness of a felony charge, a preliminary hearing must be offered to you within 10 days of being formally charged. Most of the time, your lawyer will ask for more time to arrange for the trial and produce evidence of your innocence. The prosecutor usually does not do much questioning at this hearing, wanting to hold the evidence for the actual trial. Fifteen days after the preliminary hearing is the arraignment. This is where the prosecuting attorney will inform you and your attorney of all your charges and start to show the evidence they have against you. Depending on how many different motions your attorney or the DA comes up with in regards to your case, a felony trial may not occur for a long time, even years. If you are guilty but have been released on bail, you may think it is a good thing and enjoy your freedom. Be sure to show up for all court hearings though or you will be back behind bars fast.
After the Questioning, you will be Booked and Processed into the Detention Center
Once the police have arrested you and taken you to the station to be questioned, you will be booked and processed into the detention center. If you had an attorney present, he or she may be trying to see the judge to arrange bail and have you released. If you did not have an attorney present, you should now contact one to talk to once you are processed. The sooner someone sees the judge on your behalf, the sooner you can be released on bail.
The Booking Process
You will be put into a small holding cell while all the paperwork is being taken care of for your arrest. All your belongings will be placed into bags and labeled. At this point, you will be allowed the clothes you are wearing, minus your shoes; they will give you a pair of slippers to wear. All jewelry, your eyeglasses anything in your hair, your purse, wallet and anything in your pockets will be taken. You will have your picture and your fingerprints taken and entered into the system. If there are any outstanding warrants from someplace else, they will be notified that you are in custody. You will have to see the jail nurse or doctor and discuss any medical needs or problems you have. If you require specific medications, they will be given to you.
The Holding Cell
If it is a busy time, you may end up in the holding cell for up to a day. You will be fed three meals and allowed to use the bathroom. It is not comfortable though, there are only a few benches and often they are taken so you will be sitting on the hard floor. Expect it to be crowded too and the people put in there with you may not be the kind of people you would normally associate with.
Going into the Detention Center
Once all the paperwork is taken care of, you will be given a jumpsuit and your clothes will be put with your other belongings. You will then be walked over to the detention center proper and be assigned a cell and bunk. Even if you have had bail posted, you will not be released until this point. Once in your cell, wait to hear your name called for release if you know that your bail has been paid.
Waiting to See the Judge
Once you have been processed in to the local detention center after being arrested, the next step is to find out how you can be released. If you already have a lawyer, he or she may be working to arrange for your bail already. The judge may decide you need to make a court appearance before being released. The first time you go before the judge is called your arraignment and it must be done within 48 business hours of being placed under arrest.
Explain the 48 Business Hours
If you are arrested on a Friday, the weekend does not count, so the system has until Tuesday for you to be arraigned. If it is a holiday weekend and the court is closed on Monday, they have until Wednesday. Some court systems do not operate on Fridays so you may have to wait another day before you get to declare your innocence. If you are picked up on a Wednesday, but the officers do not arrest you for a crime until Thursday – which they can do – then you may not see the judge before Monday.
The first time you see the judge, you will be informed of any and all charges against you. You will again be told your Miranda Rights and asked if you need the court to appoint an attorney for you. If you have an attorney, he or she will be present and can discuss some type of settlement of your case with the District Attorney (DA). There will be the discussion of bail, if it is allowed and how much it will be for you to be released until a pre-trial hearing.
Usually, the bail amount has already been determined when you go to your arraignment. If the DA wants to have the amount raised, it will be brought up and argued by your attorney. Unless the bail amount is so high you need to have someone secure a property bond on their real estate, you should have the bail taken care of and be released within a few hours after seeing the judge. You will be given very detailed instructions you must follow to remain out of jail while awaiting your trial. If you do not follow the stipulations, you will be put back behind bars and any chance for a new bail will be taken away. If you do not show for any court appearances, a new warrant will be issued and you will be brought back to jail.
The Plea Bargain
Sometimes, even if you are innocent, there is so much evidence against you it would be wise to try and work out a bargain with the DA to have a lesser sentence. If the Prosecutor feels there is a strong enough case against you, there will need to be something you can offer the court to make them agree to the bargain. If, however, the evidence is not so damaging as to guarantee they win a trial, they will usually be more willing to grant the bargain without anything from you.
Providing the Court with Evidence
One way you can try for a plea bargain is by testifying against someone else involved in the crime. If you were involved, but did not actually commit the worst part of it, you may be able to tell the court exactly what happened in return for a lighter sentence. This usually happens when the person most responsible does not have enough evidence against them to be convicted. An example would be if you were caught in possession of a drug and were willing to give up the name of your provider. Of course, your provider may be able to cut a deal and give them the name of someone more important in the drug chain.
The Alford Plea
You can accept an Alford Plea and still retain your innocence. You never go to trial, so you are never actually convicted. You tell the court you are innocent, but understand they have enough evidence to convict you so are willing to take a lesser sentence to avoid having the time and costs of a trial. It is a bit tricky, but it can work. Often, if a child is going to have to be put on the witness stand, the DA will accept an Alford Plea to save the child from that trauma.
Admitting Guilt to Spare the State a Trial
The state spends a lot of time and money trying to prove your guilt. If you are willing to plead guilty to the crime, they are often willing to give you a lesser sentence to avoid a trial, even if they know you are guilty and have the proof. This is often offered at the beginning of negotiation with your lawyer. You will be told of the possible arrangements and offered the chance to plead guilty. Having good legal representation will help you get through your arrest and any subsequent court hearings. The important part is to keep a cool head and talk with your lawyer.
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