The prospect of being clamped in handcuffs and shuffled into the back of a police car is intimidating for anyone. Whether you get in a bar fight, find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, or commit a serious crime, understanding the arrest process can prepare you for the next few weeks of your life. An arrest can be a serious thing, and you’ll want to be prepared for anything that comes your way.
For those who have no criminal record and aren’t used to run-ins with the law, the arrest process is pretty foreign. In fact, the only things you probably know are from watching TV shows like Law and Order or Cops.
While every situation is unique, there are some rules in the arrest process. Once the handcuffs are slapped on, expect the following:
- Reading of Miranda Rights (Maybe)
As soon as you’re arrested, you may have your Miranda Rights read to you. The exact wording the officer will use will be as follows:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
Contrary to popular belief, the arresting officer doesn’t have to read you your rights at the time of the arrest. Police officers are only required to do this when they plan on questioning you. However, anything you say can still be used against you. If you voluntarily present information, an officer can still use it (even without reading your rights).
If at any time during the arrest process you say you want an attorney, all interrogation must stop and you will be given the opportunity to speak with an attorney.
- Initial Processing
“If you are arrested, you will be handcuffed, and except in unusual circumstances, you will first be taken to the precinct in which the arrest occurred for initial processing,” The Legal Aid Society explains. “At the precinct, a police officer will interview you and ask for ‘pedigree’ information, including your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, etc. Once you have been fingerprinted you will be taken to Central Booking and processed for arraignment, which is an appearance before a judge.”
If it’s your first time inside a jail, then processing will probably be a bit of a shock to you. Not only can it be overwhelming, but you probably have lots of thoughts about your future racing through your head. Try to remain as calm as possible and remember that you have the right to a fair trial and judicial process. At this point, nothing has been determined.
- A Round of Questioning
Depending on the nature of your crime, your willingness to talk, and law enforcement’s interest in speaking with you in a timely manner, it’s possible that you’ll be immediately whisked away for a round of questioning. Obviously, you don’t have to participate – and you have the right to an attorney – but you may feel some pressure to answer questions. In almost every case, it’s wise for you to hold off until you’ve received the right representation.
- Opportunity to Post Bail
Except in rare instances or serious criminal situations, most arrestees have the right to bail. From a practical perspective, this is probably the thing you care about most in this moment. You just want to get out of jail and get a game plan together.
As I’ve stated before, “Bail can typically be posted on behalf of the arrestee – either through money or a bond – which will serve as a surety that a future appearance in court will be made.”
- Initial Hearing
Regardless of whether or not you’ve posted bail, your initial hearing before the judge should come fairly quickly (usually within a matter of a few hours or couple of days). It’s during this time that you will be informed of your charges and the penalties associated with it. It’s also during this hearing that most defendants post a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.”
- Plea Bargaining
The majority of criminal cases are actually resolved outside of court as a result of both parties (prosecution and defense) coming to an agreement. This process is known as plea bargaining.
Plea bargaining is common because it benefits all sides. You, the defendant, avoid the cost of a lengthy defense and the risk of harsher punishment. The prosecution saves the time and money that a trial would require. The court is able to cut down on the volume of cases it hears.
“Either side may begin negotiations over a proposed plea bargain, though obviously both sides have to agree before one comes to pass,” AmericanBar.org explains. “Plea bargaining usually involves the defendant’s pleading guilty to a lesser charge, or to only one of several charges. It also may involve a guilty plea as charged, with the prosecution recommending leniency in sentencing.”
If your charges stick and no plea bargain is offered/reached, then you’ll end up having to go to trial. As you likely know, the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to get a guilty conviction. You also get the opportunity to confront any witnesses against you and may compel them to testify. You also have the option to testify yourself.
Let Rowdy G. Williams Help
There’s nothing casual or insignificant about being charged with a crime. Whether it’s a small misunderstanding or a serious criminal offense, you need an attorney that you can trust on your side.
At the Rowdy G. Williams Law Firm, we take pride in representing each of our clients with the same level of honesty, transparency, and intensity. When you decide to let us represent you, we give you everything we have to fight your charges and help you avoid serious consequences.
For more information on how we can help, please contact us today. We’d be happy to discuss the details of your situation in a free case evaluation.