The Arrest Process and You: A Guide to Your Rights, Bail, and More

There were 15,850 DWI cases in Harris County last year. After each arrest, police officers followed specific legal procedures.

Every action surrounding the arrest must follow legal and constitutional rules.

The minute an officer arrests you, you become the suspect in a crime. While no one wants to go to jail, it’s wise to understand the process.

Keep reading to learn what happens after an arrest.

What Does Arrest Mean?

When a police officer takes someone into custody, it’s called an arrest. Someone who's under arrest isn’t free to leave.

An officer can arrest a person for the following reasons:

  • The officer witnesses the person committing a crime
  • There’s probable cause that the person committed a felony crime
  • A judge or magistrate issues an arrest warrant

If a judge issues an arrest warrant, it charges the person with a crime before they’re arrested. Based on the warrant, a police officer locates the person and arrests him/her.

The arrested person must receive a copy of the warrant within a reasonable amount of time.

Don’t Fight the Arrest

In most cases, the subject doesn’t have the right to resist arrest. Sometimes this is true even when the arrest is illegal.

If you fight the officer, you risk charges for battery on an officer, resisting arrest, and worse.

Cooperate with the officer. Save the battle for the courtroom.

What Happens After an Arrest?

If an officer stops you on the street, he can frisk you. This involves patting down your clothes to determine if you’re concealing a weapon.

After an arrest, the officer can search your person and immediate surroundings. A search is more thorough than a frisk. The officer looks for weapons, stolen goods, contraband, and crime evidence.

If the police take your car, they’ll search through it. The officers can seize illegal items.

The officers take inventory of your money and personal property. It's then secured elsewhere. You’ll need to sign an inventory list.

Don't sign off on the inventory list unless it's accurate.

After the arrest, the next step is booking at the police department. Booking includes providing your name, address, and birthdate, fingerprints, and a mug shot.

You could take part in a line-up or give a handwriting sample.

If you’re held without booking within a reasonable time, your attorney can request your release.

When you’re held for many hours or overnight without charges, the lawyer asks the judge for a writ of habeas corpus.

A habeas corpus means the police must take you before the court. The judge decides if holding you is lawful.

Your Rights During an Arrest

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1966 case Miranda v. Arizona, that individuals arrested for suspicion of a crime have certain rights.

Miranda rights protect you from self-incrimination. Law officers must read the warning before questioning an individual in police custody.

Some situations, like a traffic stop, don’t need a Miranda warning.

Always invoke your rights after an arrest. State that you wish to remain silent and talk to a lawyer.

After invoking your rights, be quiet. People often make the mistake of saying they don’t want to talk, and then talking anyway.

Give your name, address, and birthdate, but don’t reveal extra information. Don’t discuss the case with family, friends or other inmates. Only the conversations with your lawyer are confidential.

It’s a mistake to think you can escape punishment if an officer fails to read your Miranda rights to you. While the prosecutor can’t use anything said as evidence at a trial, there are exceptions to the rule.

It’s never a good idea to waive your Miranda rights. Instead, remain silent and wait for your attorney.

One Phone Call

In most states, after an arrest, you’re entitled to a phone call. You can call your family, a criminal attorney or a bail bondsman.

Make sure you know the numbers by memory. The police may not let you use your cell phone.

If you can’t afford an attorney, you get a public defender. Remember, most calls from the police station or jail aren’t private unless you’re talking to your lawyer.

Post-Booking

After arrest and booking, your case goes to the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor decides what charges to file. He/she must file the charges within 48-72 hours.

The prosecutor can change the charges later if more evidence is available.

Arraignment

The next step is the arraignment. The arraignment takes place in court in front of the judge. After the judge reads the charges, you must give a plea.

You can plead guilty or not guilty. You can also plead nolo contendere, which means no contest. This indicates you don’t contest the charges against you.

A plead of no contest isn't considered an admission of guilt during the criminal trial. Yet, during the indictment phase, it can imply a confession or admission of facts.

A judge only accepts a no-contest plea if it’s voluntary.

Bail

In some cases, you can get out of jail by posting bail. Bail is the money you pay to the court to guarantee you’ll appear later.

A refund of bail money occurs when you appear for your court date. If you miss a court appearance, the court keeps your money. It can also issue a warrant for your arrest.

Get Legal Help

Being arrested is a complicated situation. Don’t make it worse by trying to talk your way out of the arrest. It won't happen.

What happens after an arrest depends on your actions. The best move is to invoke your rights and consult a lawyer.

Don’t take part in a lineup, explain the situation, or do anything related to your case until you talk to an attorney.

If you’re arrested and charged with a crime, always get legal help. A criminal attorney can help you understand your rights and find your best legal options.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.