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What to Expect After an Arrest

An arrest and the prospect of several court appearances can make anyone feel unsettled, whether the arrest happened to you or someone close to you. But those worries can be even bigger if you have never passed through this process before. You may be unsure what steps will take place or how to prepare for each event. This blog explains the basic process of what happens after an arrest. Familiarize yourself with the information below so you can ease any worries you have about the post-arrest proceedings.

The Arrest

An arrest can occur legally under any of the following circumstances:
  • A police officer sees a crime take place. For example, when a police officer sees someone driving unsafely, he or she can pull over that car and ask the person to take a Breathalyzer test. If the test reveals a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, the police officer can arrest that individual.
  • The police officer has reason to believe the person committed (or will soon commit) a crime. This belief is called probable cause. For example, officers hear a report of a bank robbery, including a description of the alleged robbers and the car they were driving. The crime report gives the officer probable cause to pull the vehicle over, question the driver, inspect the car, and decide if an arrest should be made. The police officer knows there is an arrest warrant for that individual.
Based on any of the reasons above, a police officer may make an arrest. The arresting officer should always state the person’s Miranda rights and then take him or her to jail.

Booking

After an arrest, the individual goes through a process called booking. This step includes giving basic information to the police, such as name and Social Security number, so the police can create a record of the arrest. This step also includes taking a mug shot, being fingerprinted, and handing personal property to the police for safekeeping while the person is in custody. During booking, police also typically check to see if the arrested person has any outstanding charges, which can include everything from unpaid parking tickets to arrest warrants in other states. The booking officers may also perform a health screening.

First Court Appearance

Soon after being arrested, the person will appear before a judge to formally hear the charges against him or her. Depending on the charges, this court appearance could be a bail hearing or an arraignment. This court appearance must take place within a reasonable time after the arrest because the Sixth Amendment gives people the right to a speedy trial. At a bail hearing, the judge simply sets bail. Judges usually use predetermined bail amounts for misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. For example, in Minnesota, many DWIs qualify as gross misdemeanors and carry a mandatory maximum bail of $12,000. With some charges, the judge can use his or her discretion to alter the bail or set additional conditions of release. A judge can also deny bail if he or she believes the person will likely not show up to later court appearances. At an arraignment, the court formally charges the individual with a crime and again advises that person of rights guaranteed to him or her, such as the right to an attorney. The person being charged also has a chance to enter a plea. An arraignment may also include discussion of bail or other conditions of release. After bail is set, the charged person can be released on bail, either by posting the bail or paying a bail bond company to cover the full bail amount.

Pre-Trial Hearings

Before a person’s charges are settled with an acquittal, a conviction, a plea bargain, or other means (such as the case being dismissed), there will likely be a few pre-trial hearings. These hearings can have various names, including Rasmussen hearings or Omnibus hearings, depending on the purpose. In general, these hearings simply involve more detailed discussion of the case. The prosecution or the defense may call witnesses or request that the judge take certain actions. In most cases, the person charged with a crime must appear in court during any pre-trial hearings. If the defendant does not appear, he or she forfeits the bail (or the bond put up by a bail bond company). During this phase, the defendant may decide to enter a new plea. For example, the defendant could reach a plea bargain agreement with the prosecution. If at any point the defendant pleads guilty, the case proceeds to sentencing.

Trial

If the pre-trial motions and hearings do not result in a resolution to the case, it will proceed to trial. At trial, either a jury or a judge will hear all the evidence and decide whether to convict or acquit the defendant. Again, the defendant must appear in court during the trial.   If you or someone you know gets arrested, make sure to act quickly to build your defense team. This team can include a bail bond company, an attorney of your choice, or a court-appointed attorney. These professionals will help the charged person get released from jail and prepare for trial.